Gold Jacket Spotlight: Bill Cowher ‘even looked like a Steeler’

When Pittsburgh Steelers President DAN ROONEY was describing the process of interviewing BILL COWHER for the team’s head coaching position in his book “Dan Rooney: My 75 Years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL,” he recalled several notable qualities about the 34-year-old coaching candidate.

“Cowher had an infectious enthusiasm. He wanted to win. What’s more, he even looked like a Steeler. With his jutting jaw and chiseled features, he reminded me of our old logo, the one that depicted a rough, tough, brawny steelworker walking on an I-beam.”

Bill, the enthusiastic winner, Pittsburgh native and Pro Football Hall of Famer, steps into the Gold Jacket Spotlight this week.

Prior to being named Pittsburgh’s head coach in 1992, Bill ascended the coaching ranks via the tutelage of Marty Schottenheimer in Cleveland and Kansas City. In Cleveland, he served as a special teams and secondary coach, and while in Kansas City he held the position of defensive coordinator. 

While looking like a Steeler certainly captured Rooney’s attention, several other qualities led to Bill’s hiring.

“Bill’s self-discipline and integrity showed through,” Rooney said. “I knew he was a good person. When the going gets tough, you need strength of character to make good decisions. I got the sense he could relate to players. They would trust him. The trust in the coach is essential in building team closeness.”

Bill, for his part, has related the story that one of his first goals as head coach was simple: keep the position for three years.

During an interview for the Rooney book, Bill recalled, “The first thing I said to my wife was, ‘If I don’t screw this thing up, I can be the head coach of the team where I grew up at my 20th high school (Carlynton) reunion.’ And I was a graduate of ’75, and I wanted to make it to ’95, so I was just hoping I could make it to three years.”

Fifteen seasons, eight division titles, 21 playoff games, two Super Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl title later, he retired from the position he was hopeful to maintain for three years.

“We had a lot of good players and a lot of good coaches. There are a lot of people, not just myself, that were part of that success. I’ll never think it was all done by me because it wasn’t. I was fortunate enough to have a lot of good people around me, and that allowed me to do something that I love,” Bill acknowledged.

The Steelers family was of the utmost importance to Bill.

“Bottom line, it goes back to family. Family is everything,” he told Bill Pompeani of Pittsburgh’s KDKA-TV. “We can all talk about football. Talk about faith. But it’s about family, and I was blessed to be with the best family in football, the Rooney family, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

Hall of Famer ROD WOODSON was one of many Pittsburgh players recognizing Bill’s commitment to the Steelers’ family.

“I think he would read us just like your kids. When he saw something wrong in our face or maybe an attitude or the way we were walking on the sideline, he would come to us one way or the other: either pick us up or to get us going,” Woodson said.

“He was like a psychologist in terms of understanding who he needed to push, who he needed to put his arm around, when he needed to get in their face,” Hall of Fame running back JEROME BETTIS said.

Bill has spent 45 years in the NFL as either a player, coach or analyst supporting the introductory comments about him in Pompeani’s video documentary, “From Crafton to Canton,” that proclaimed: “Hard work and determination are two characteristics that former Steelers coach Bill Cowher personifies.”

Those characteristics fit a coach who “looked like a Steeler.”