Bill Cowher’s career is a full circle

Patrick Ryan, News Editor

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As of 1979, Bill Cowher made his mark on the National Football League. Cowher combined for 28 consecutive years in the NFL as both a player and a coach. By the time he resigned in 2007, Cowher was voted by the Associated Press as NFL Coach of the Year in 1992, and Sporting News’ NFL Coach of the Year in 1992 and 2004. He also came away with one Super Bowl victory in two appearances and lifetime record of 149-90-1 (.623).

In 1979, Cowher was undrafted out of North Carolina State before he received a call from the Philadelphia Eagles’ front office picking him up as a free agent. The following year, he signed with the Cleveland Browns as a linebacker where he served for two years. After his stint with the, “Kardiac Kids,” the Browns traded him back to Philadelphia where he played for just two more years up until the conclusion of the 1984 season.

Throughout Cowher’s four-year career as a player, he was primarily known for his prowess on special teams. However, after he had concluded his role as a player on the gridiron, he immediately took a job as a special teams coach back in Cleveland. He held the position for just one year before being moved to coaching the secondary, still with the Browns. He retained his whistle in Cleveland for just three more years before moving to Kansas City, serving as the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator from 1989-1991.

As Chuck Noll was wrapping up his legendary career in Pittsburgh in 1991, with a lifetime record of 209-156-1, and four Super Bowl victories (IX, X, XIII, XIV) the Steelers were without a head coach. The Steelers contacted the 35-year-old Cowher at the time.

Cowher came back to where he grew up with a bang leading the Steelers to the playoffs for each of his first six years as head coach. It is an accomplishment that had only ever been done once before by legendary Cleveland Browns former coach, Paul Brown. Three of his first six seasons, Cowher led his squad to the AFC Championship game. In 1995, after defeating the Indianapolis Colts, the Steelers punched their tickets to Arizona for Super Bowl XXX to take on the Dallas Cowboys. Troy Aikman and the Coyboys, however, were able to exploit the infamous, “Blitzburg Defense,” that Steelers’ Defensive Coordinator, Dick LeBeau is known for to this day, defeating the Steelers 27-17.

Fast forward to the year 2006 when Cowher and the Steelers tied the all-time franchise record for most Super Bowl victories with a 21-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks at Ford Field in Detroit. With the win in Super Bowl XL, the Steelers joined the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, becoming the third team ever to win five Super Bowls.  They were also the first sixth seeded playoff team to reach and win the Super Bowl since the NFL expanded the post season to a 12-team format in 1990.

Cowher coached all the way through to the end of the 2006 season where he finished just short of the playoffs with an overall record of 8-8.

Looking back on Cowher’s head coaching career, he took the Steelers to the playoffs ten times in 15 campaigns, including six AFC championship games, two Super Bowl appearances, and one Super Bowl victory.

On January 5, 2007, Cowher officially resigned as head coach of the Steelers, 11 months to the day after winning the 2005-06 Super Bowl. He is currently a studio analyst for The NFL Today on CBS.

On September 27, the Pro Football Hall of Fame released their list of 127 nominees for the Class of 2013 to be inducted. Cowher, as well as seven others on the list have ties to Pittsburgh. Jerome Bettis and Kevin Greene, who were both finalists in 2012, as well as former center, Jeff Hartings, kicker, Gary Anderson, Defensive Coordinator, Bud Carson, Director of Player Personnel during the 1970’s, Art Rooney Jr. and Buddy Parker, former Steelers head coach (1957-64) as well as former coach of the Chicago Cardinals and Detroit Lions.

In November the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee will narrow the list to just 25 semifinalists. In early January, the committee will trim down the list again to just 15, “modern-era finalists.”

The Class of 2013 Professional Football Hall of Fame inductees will be announced the day before Super Bowl XLVII on February 2, 2013 in New Orleans.

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