can take the people out of Pittsburgh, but you can't take the Pittsburgh out of the people".
In Cowher's defense, did anyone notice how "distant" he was towards Art Rooney (the kid, not Chief; the Steelers founder)? Dan Rooney (Art's dad and the Chief's son) and Cowher embraced at the press conference. Dan was the central figure in the hiring of him (and Noll).
Dan has slowly turned over the day-to-day operations of the Steelers to his son (Art, the kid). Was there any animosity building up between the kid and Cowher? Was he jealous of Dan and Bill's close personal relationship (Cowher was quoted as saying "75% of our talks were not about football")? And did Art, the kid, want Cowher out so he could hire the next head coach so he could claim the accolades of the Steelers success being due to "his" genius?
With the advent of free agency, you will be hard pressed to find a coach who will: 1) Stay with an organization for 15 years; 2) Have a losing record in only 3 of those 15 years; and 3) Be the heart and soul of the city (Cowher Power).
Cowher did have a dismal AFC Championship Game record, yet he had to be doing something right to get there so many times. Only twice (in his first two years at the helm, '92 and '93) did they enter the playoffs and lose their first game. What does this mean?
The final eight playoff appearances went as follows: 1 Super Bowl win, 1 Super Bowl loss (again, thanks Neil O'Donnell for the two interceptions gift-wrapped for Larry Brown), 4 AFC Championship Game losses, and 2 AFC Divisional losses. Six of the seven losses were games they were either heavily favored in or games they should have/could have won easily (only the '96 loss to New England was lopsided, 28-3).
All this was done with mostly mediocre or sub-par talent at the QB position. Don't hold your breath for Hall of Fame consideration for this group: Bubby Brister, O'Donnell, Mike Tomczak, Kent Graham, Kordell Stewart, and Tommy Maddox. The jury is still out on "Big Ben", who lost a few inches in stature after the '06 debacle.
Maybe if the Steelers had drafted a QB in the later rounds and pulled off a "diamond in the rough" such as Mark Brunell (5th round, 1993) or Trent Green (8th round, 1993), they could have possibly won two or three more of those AFC Championship Games. Maybe won a few more Super Bowls.
You can second-guess yourself silly. Cowher was a one-of-a-kind coach who took the "Steeler Nation" from the Pennsylvania area westward to the Pacific Ocean. His chin, his jaw, his flying spit (yes he spit but not intentional) was of legend. Sorta reminiscent to an old Steeler vet, Jack Lambert.
My lasting memory of Cowher's intensity came in '97. The Steelers were down 23-21 and preparing to kick the game-winning field goal. The field goal was blocked and run back by Jacksonville for a touchdown. While the Jacksonville player was sprinting down the sidelines, Cowher briefly appeared to be poised to tackle the player himself from the sidelines.
Thanks to your coaching ability, you kept me glued to the television set when Pittsburgh games were televised in the 1990's and glued to the Internet listening to the games via radio feed in the 2000's. On every Sunday (minus bye weeks, Monday/Thursday/Saturday games), from 1:00 till 6:00, from September to January, it was "Cowher Time". Thank you for the memories. Good luck on your future endeavors. And if you ever do return to the NFL (I know you will), please don't go to Cleveland, Cincinnati, or Baltimore.