By Scott Brown
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Steelers coach Bill Cowher talked about injuries, including the one that will sideline offensive tackle Max Starks for Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens. He talked about the challenges of beating the team that walloped the Steelers less than a month ago.
It was, as Cowher news conferences go, standard stuff.
His weekly media briefing Tuesday took an unlikely turn, however, when Cowher was asked if Sunday would have any extra significance since it could be his last game at Heinz Field as the Steelers' coach.
Cowher proceeded to answer questions about his uncertain future and said he gave serious consideration to leaving his job after the Steelers won the Super Bowl in February.
He reiterated that he will make a decision on whether he'll return to the team after this season, and Cowher said he didn't appreciate media portrayals of him being unwilling to talk about his future.
"There's been no decision made," said Cowher, who is under contract with the Steelers through 2007 but could opt out of the final year. "It's something that I'll need to get away from and give serious thought to, and I will do that at the right time. Now is not the right time."
Cowher told reporters who cover the Carolina Panthers the same thing during a conference call Dec. 13.
He also said he planned to retire, eventually, to North Carolina. His comments were newsworthy because Cowher talked so openly about his situation.
Cowher said he is not burned out, even though he is the longest-tenured coach in the NFL.
"Do I look burned out? I'm not," said Cowher, who is in his 15th season at the Steelers' helm. "I love the challenges and love this time of year, to be honest with you."
Cowher said the reason he hasn't talked about it with local reporters is because he simply hasn't been asked about his future.
"That's the only question that's been asked," Cowher said. "Before you pass judgment upon me, ask the question."
Two days after the Steelers' 20-13 loss to Oakland in late October, Cowher was asked if his uncertain future had become a distraction to his players, and he tersely said, "No."
Cowher made it clear that public discussion of his future has limits.
Family considerations could cause Cowher to leave the Steelers after the season. His daughters Meagan and Lauren play basketball at Princeton University, and a third daughter, Lindsay, plays for her high school team in Raleigh, N.C., where Cowher and his wife own a multimillion-dollar home.
Lauren, who is a freshman at Princeton, told the Tribune-Review this week, "It has been killing my dad not to see us play."
Asked if there was any significance to his daughter's comments, Cowher said, "There will be a lot of things that go into (his decision). Now is the time not to talk about it, but I want to at least answer (the question) so I don't get labeled as being terse."
When asked if money would be a factor in his decision -- the veteran coach is believed to make about $4 million per season and is underpaid by his profession's standards -- Cowher said, "We're done. We're talking about the Baltimore Ravens."