Notebook: Cowher won't coach N.C. St.

PITTSBURGH – He has a house there. His wife lives there. His daughter could end up playing basketball there. But Bill Cowher will not coach football there, at his alma mater, North Carolina State.

"I'm very flattered to hear some of the things that have been coming out, but I'm not a candidate," Cowher said yesterday. "I have a job here and my focus really is on this job right here, so you can take me off the list. I am flattered. It's a super program and I'm sure that they'll get a very qualified coach who's going to walk into a good situation."

Cowher played linebacker, was a team captain and an MVP at N.C. State before graduating in 1979. His position coach, Chuck Amato, was recently fired from the school after the team went 3-9 in his seventh season as head coach. Cowher was considered a potential candidate for the position, particularly in light of the rampant speculation that this will be his last season with the Steelers.

Cowher purchased a home in Raleigh for $2.5 million in February, and his wife Kaye, also an N.C. State alum, lives there with their youngest daughter. The Fayetteville Observer on Wednesday quoted a prominent booster as saying "not to contact (Cowher) would be foolish." But Cowher said he has no interest.

"I've heard about it," he said of N.C. State's interest. "But like I said I've got a job here."

Cowher was asked if he could envision coaching college football some day.

"I don't know. I don't look that far down the road, I really don't," he said. "I guess those are times when you get in that reflective mode.

The only thing I'm reflecting on now is that feeling we had after last Sunday's game and trying to rectify that. That's where the focus is at.

"I'm here. I'm a coach here, as much as that may disappoint some people, but I am the coach here and I want to win these last five games. I'm going to do everything in my power to do that. Like I said, my focus, I've been here for awhile and I like it. It's a good job. I don't like the way we are right now and I'm going to do everything in our power to finish this thing up strong and see where the chips fall."

LIMBO AFFECTING TEAM?

For the first time as coach of the Steelers, Cowher is working with less than two years remaining on his contract. And since the defending champion Steelers are underachieving at 4-7, it's natural to wonder whether Cowher's uncertain status has affected the team.

"If you want to take a poll you can talk to the players about that," Cowher told reporters in Tampa Bay. "But I know it has not affected me and my approach to this game and in my communication with the football team. I've dealt with it no differently."

Those reporters followed up on Cowher's instructions and polled quarterback Ben Roethlisberger when he called later. He was asked if the notion has been overhyped.

"Yeah, I think so," Roethlisberger said. "In the locker room, on this team, we don't even think about it. We totally forget about it until people bring it up and mention it and ask us questions about it. For us, we're not even thinking about that."

BETTIS PASSING

The Steelers yesterday mourned the passing of Johnnie Bettis. The father of Jerome Bettis died of a heart attack in Detroit on Tuesday. He was 61.

"He's a great man, just like Jerome, a nice guy, friendly," said Chris Hoke. "It's a tough thing to swallow. Things were going great for Jerome. This is the first tough moments he's had since the Super Bowl. And it's a real tough one, too."

Hoke was part of the Pittsburgh Steelers contingent that attended the Bettis family dinner during Super Bowl week. He felt it helped build camaraderie before the game.

"We always think of Jerome as a superstar, but he doesn't act like a superstar. He's a great guy; real personable and down to earth. To go to his house and see him in his family situation, really, I think brought the team close together."

The funeral will be held in Detroit on Dec. 4. In lieu of flowers the Bettis family asks that all donations be sent to: The Bus Stops Here Foundation, c/o Johnnie Bettis Jr., Chase Bank, 28 660 Northwestern Highway, Southfield, MI, 48034, account number 175001679141.

INJURY REPORT

Cowher on Tuesday said linebacker Clark Haggans would be questionable with a hip injury. Haggans didn't practice Wednesday, but was listed on the week's first injury report as probable. Also missing practice were C Jeff Hartings (probably/knee), S Troy Polamalu (out/knee) and WR Hines Ward (out/knee).

Tampa Bay lists as questionable: CB Will Allen (ankle), CB Juran Bolden (shin), RB Michael Pittman (hamstring/shoulder), LB Shelton Quarles (knee/ankle), TE Alex Smith (ankle) and DT Ellis Wyms (ankle). Missing Wednesday's practice were Pittman and Smith.

LORELLO BACK

The Steelers signed safety Mike Lorello to their practice squad and he worked yesterday. The former West Virginia University player spent training camp with the team but was cut before the start of the season.


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