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Bill Cowher

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Bill Cowher
refer to caption
Cowher with the Steelers in 2006
No. 53, 57
Personal information
Born: (1957-05-08) May 8, 1957 (age 67)
Crafton, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Height:6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight:225 lb (102 kg)
Career information
High school:Carlynton
(Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
College:NC State
Career history
As a player:
As a coach:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:45
Games started:4
Fumble recoveries:1
Head coaching record
Regular season:149–90–1 (.623)
Postseason:12–9 (.571)
Career:161–99–1 (.619)
Coaching stats at PFR

William Laird Cowher (born May 8, 1957) is an American sports analyst, former football player and coach. Following a six-year playing career as a linebacker in the National Football League (NFL), he served as a head coach in the NFL for 15 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He began his coaching career as an assistant under Marty Schottenheimer for the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs, serving as the latter's defensive coordinator from 1989 to 1991. In 1992, Cowher was named head coach of the Steelers, whom he led until his retirement following the 2006 season. After retiring, he joined The NFL Today as a studio analyst.

Under Cowher, Pittsburgh won eight division titles, two AFC Championship Games, and Super Bowl XL. Cowher's Super Bowl victory marked the first championship title for the franchise in over two decades and the first not to be won by Chuck Noll, his predecessor. The Steelers appeared in the postseason 10 times with Cowher, including six consecutive appearances from his 1992 hiring to 1997, which made him the second NFL head coach to reach the playoffs during each of his first six seasons after Paul Brown. He was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020.

Early life[edit]

Cowher in 1975.

Born and raised in Crafton, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Cowher excelled in football, basketball, and track for Carlynton High School. At NC State, he was a starting linebacker, team captain, and team MVP in his senior year. He graduated in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in education.

Professional career[edit]

Cowher began his NFL career as a linebacker with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1979, but signed with the Cleveland Browns the following year. Cowher played three seasons (1980–82) in Cleveland, making him a member of the Kardiac Kids, before being traded back to the Eagles, where he played two more years (1983–84). His tenure in Philadelphia included tackling a young Jeff Fisher (who later became the head coach of the Tennessee Titans and St. Louis Rams) when playing against the Chicago Bears, causing Fisher to break his leg.[1] The two would later be rival head coaches and friends in the AFC Central division, and Fisher has credited his injury at the hands of Cowher with having the unintended consequence of propelling him into coaching.

Cowher primarily played special teams during his playing career; subsequently, he placed emphasis on special teams during his coaching career. Cowher credits being a "bubble player" during his playing career with influencing his coaching career, feeling that such players work the hardest for a roster spot (and sometimes still get cut, hence the term "bubble player"), and thus make better head coaches than those with successful playing careers.[citation needed]

Coaching career[edit]

Assistant jobs[edit]

Cowher began his coaching career in 1985 at age 28 under Marty Schottenheimer with the Cleveland Browns. Cowher, who had played under Schottenheimer in Cleveland when Schottenheimer was the team's defensive coordinator, stated that he took a coaching position despite taking a significant pay cut from what he would have made as a player with the Eagles in 1985 because he saw his fortunes as a player limited and saw more of a future as a coach.[2]

He was the Browns' special teams coach in 1985–86 and secondary coach in 1987–88 before following Schottenheimer to the Kansas City Chiefs in 1989 as defensive coordinator. He was a finalist for the Cincinnati Bengals head coaching position in 1991 following the dismissal of Sam Wyche, but was passed over in favor of Dave Shula.

Pittsburgh Steelers[edit]

Cowher in 1996
Cowher challenges a play

He became the 15th head coach in Steelers history when he succeeded Chuck Noll on January 21, 1992 – but only the team's second head coach since the NFL merger in 1970, beating out fellow Pittsburgh native and Pitt alumnus (and eventual Pitt head coach) Dave Wannstedt (Wannstedt instead became the coach of the Chicago Bears the following season).[3] Under Cowher, the Steelers showed an immediate improvement from the disappointing 7–9 season the year before, going 11–5 and earning home-field advantage in the AFC after the Steelers had missed the playoffs six times out of the previous seven years. In 1995, at age 38, he became the youngest coach to lead his team to a Super Bowl. Cowher is only the second coach in NFL history to lead his team to the playoffs in each of his first six seasons as head coach, joining Pro Football Hall of Fame member Paul Brown.

In Cowher's 15 seasons, the Steelers captured eight division titles, earned 10 postseason playoff berths (including six straight in his first six seasons), played in 21 playoff games, advanced to six AFC Championship games and made two Super Bowl appearances. He is one of only six coaches in NFL history to claim at least seven division titles. At the conclusion of the 2005 season, the Steelers had the best record of any team in the NFL since Cowher was hired as head coach.

Cowher in 2006

On February 5, 2006, Cowher's Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XL by defeating the Seattle Seahawks 21–10, giving Cowher his first Super Bowl ring. Including the Super Bowl, Cowher's teams over the years had compiled a record of 108–1–1 in games in which they built a lead of at least 11 points.[4]

On January 5, 2007, Cowher resigned after 15 years of being the Steelers head coach. Cowher's record as a head coach was 161–99–1, including the playoffs. He was succeeded by Mike Tomlin.

On January 11, 2020, Cowher was told live on a CBS pregame show that he was being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of its centennial class by its president David Baker.[5]

After coaching[edit]

On February 15, 2007, he signed on to The NFL Today on CBS as a studio analyst, joining Dan Marino, Shannon Sharpe, and Boomer Esiason.

In 2007, Cowher appeared in the ABC reality television series Fast Cars and Superstars: The Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race, featuring a dozen celebrities in a stock car racing competition. Cowher matched up against Gabrielle Reece and William Shatner.

On March 4, 2008, Cowher responded to rumors concerning his coaching future by stating, "I'm not going anywhere."[6] The rumors started after the Cowhers placed their Raleigh, North Carolina home on the market, but their intention was to build a new house two miles away.

Dan Marino and Bill Cowher during a CBS Pre-game Show.

Putting an end to numerous unfounded rumors of his return to coaching in the NFL in 2009, Cowher stated on The NFL Today that he did not plan to coach again in the immediate future.[7]

In July 2010, Cowher was the keynote speaker for National Agents Alliance at their Leadership Conference. He talked about work ethic, leadership and how that transfers into the work force. He said it's not about what you accomplish, it's about who you touch along the way.[8]

Cowher had a part in the movie The Dark Knight Rises (2012), which was filmed at Heinz Field, the home of the Steelers, on Pittsburgh’s North Side. He played the head coach of the Gotham Rogues.[9]

On August 11, 2023, NC State announced that Cowher would be inducted into its Ring of Honor with the ceremony taking place before the Wolfpack's Sept. 29 game versus Louisville.[10]

Coaching tree[edit]

Assistant coaches under Cowher that became head coaches in the NFL or NCAA:

Players under Cowher that became head coaches in the NFL:

Personal life[edit]

Cowher's North Ridge Country Club home in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Cowher's late wife, Kaye (née Young), also a North Carolina State University graduate, played professional basketball for the New York Stars of the (now defunct) Women's Professional Basketball League with her twin sister, Faye. Kaye was featured in the book Mad Seasons: The Story of the First Women's Professional Basketball League, 1978–1981, by Karra Porter (University of Nebraska Press, 2006). Kaye Cowher died of skin cancer at age 54 on July 23, 2010.[11] The couple had three daughters: Meagan, Lauren, and Lindsay. Meagan and Lauren played basketball at Princeton University. Lindsay played basketball at Wofford College before transferring to Elon University. In 2007, the Cowher family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, from the Pittsburgh suburb of Fox Chapel. Meagan married former NHL forward Kevin Westgarth in 2011.[12] Lindsay married former NBA forward Ryan Kelly of the Atlanta Hawks on August 2, 2014.[13]

Cowher married Veronica Stigeler in 2014.[14] In 2018 Cowher put his Raleigh house in North Ridge Country Club up for sale after announcing he would be moving to New York full-time.[15]

Cowher co-authored an autobiography, Heart and Steel, in 2021.[16]


Cowher was on the cover of EA Sports' 2006 video game NFL Head Coach. He appears in TV advertising for Time Warner Cable.[17] In the video game Madden NFL 19, he voiced himself in the mini-game Longshot 2: Homecoming. In the mini-game, he makes his return to coaching as the head coach of the Houston Texans.

Head coaching record[edit]

Team Year Regular season Postseason
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
PIT 1992 11 5 0 .688 1st in AFC Central 0 1 .000 Lost to Buffalo Bills in AFC Divisional Game
PIT 1993 9 7 0 .563 2nd in AFC Central 0 1 .000 Lost to Kansas City Chiefs in AFC Wild Card Game
PIT 1994 12 4 0 .750 1st in AFC Central 1 1 .500 Lost to San Diego Chargers in AFC Championship Game
PIT 1995 11 5 0 .688 1st in AFC Central 2 1 .667 Lost to Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX
PIT 1996 10 6 0 .625 1st in AFC Central 1 1 .500 Lost to New England Patriots in AFC Divisional Game
PIT 1997 11 5 0 .688 1st in AFC Central 1 1 .500 Lost to Denver Broncos in AFC Championship Game
PIT 1998 7 9 0 .438 3rd in AFC Central
PIT 1999 6 10 0 .375 4th in AFC Central
PIT 2000 9 7 0 .563 3rd in AFC Central
PIT 2001 13 3 0 .812 1st in AFC Central 1 1 .500 Lost to New England Patriots in AFC Championship Game
PIT 2002 10 5 1 .656 1st in AFC North 1 1 .500 Lost to Tennessee Titans in AFC Divisional Game
PIT 2003 6 10 0 .375 3rd in AFC North
PIT 2004 15 1 0 .938 1st in AFC North 1 1 .500 Lost to New England Patriots in AFC Championship Game
PIT 2005 11 5 0 .688 2nd in AFC North 4 0 1.000 Super Bowl XL champions
PIT 2006 8 8 0 .500 3rd in AFC North
PIT Total 149 90 1 .623 12 9 .571
Total[18] 149 90 1 .623 12 9 .571

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Silver, Michael (October 7, 1996). "Making A Statement". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  2. ^ "- YouTube". YouTube.
  3. ^ King, Peter (January 13, 1992). "Thanks, But No Thanks: As others scrambled for coaching jobs, Bill Parcells rejected two whopping offers". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  4. ^ Collier, Gene (February 6, 2006). "Taylor's interception clips Seahawk's wings". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved March 29, 2010.
  5. ^ The NFL Today. CBS. January 11, 2020.
  6. ^ Bouchette, Ed (March 5, 2008). "Cowhers will move, but not to Penn State". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on March 8, 2008. Retrieved March 7, 2008.
  7. ^ "Cowher Doesn't Plan on Coaching in 2009". TSN. January 4, 2009. Retrieved January 4, 2009.
  8. ^ "Bill Cowher talks to National Agents Alliance Agents about opportunity and hard work". YouTube. August 23, 2010. Archived from the original on November 4, 2021.
  9. ^ Aaron on (August 7, 2011). "Aaron's Experience As An Extra On 'The Dark Knight Rises' *SPOILERS INCLUDED* - The Spill Movie Community". My.spill.com. Archived from the original on March 30, 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  10. ^ "Bill Cowher to be Inducted Into the NC State Ring of Honor". NC State University Athletics. Retrieved August 11, 2023.
  11. ^ "Kaye Cowher, wife of former Steelers coach, dies at age 54". WRALsportsfan.com. Associated Press. July 24, 2010. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  12. ^ "Bill Cowher's daughter to wed NHL enforcer". Sports.nationalpost.com. July 13, 2011. Archived from the original on July 16, 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  13. ^ "Lindsay Cowher gets engaged to Ryan Kelly from Duke". WTAE.com. May 24, 2013. Archived from the original on January 1, 2014.
  14. ^ Prunty, Brendan (November 5, 2015). "Bill Cowher's New Normal". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  15. ^ Bennett, Abbie (June 24, 2018). "NCSU grad, former Steelers coach Bill Cowher selling Raleigh house for $2 million". The News & Observer. Raleigh, North Carolina. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  16. ^ Cowher, Bill; Holley, Michael (2021). Heart and Steel. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781982175818.
  17. ^ Tara DeGeorges (April 12, 2013). "Enjoy Sports Better: Bill Cowher is TWC's Head Coach". www.twcableuntangled.com. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  18. ^ "Bill Cowher Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks –". Pro-football-reference.com. May 8, 1957. Retrieved August 3, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]