Tuesday, January 02, 2007
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Some Steelers players came from yesterday's meeting with coach Bill Cowher believing even more firmly that he will quit as their coach.
Cowher met with his players and assistant coaches as a group yesterday morning and then spent the rest of the day meeting with each of them individually. The feeling in the organization -- from management to the players -- is that Cowher will step down after 15 seasons and with one year left on his contract.
At least one prominent Steelers veteran said publicly he believes Cowher will soon quit, based on what he told his team the past two days.
"I think he's definitely leaning toward calling it a day, but you never know," All-Pro guard Alan Faneca said after meeting with Cowher yesterday. "He said he's going to step away and let the emotions set and get back with his family and make a decision."
Cowher talked to the whole team at 10 a.m. yesterday, then began meeting individually with players, starting with the team's oldest veterans. It's a daylong process he has followed during his 15 years as Steelers coach.
Players said while he did not reveal his plans, it was emotional and carried the feeling that it could be the final meeting with their coach. Others too in the organization say they believe he will soon step down.
"I didn't cry," said linebacker Joey Porter, like Faneca a team co-captain. "That was a good thing. I almost did, but I didn't.
"It was emotional because that is my guy there. Whatever decision he makes, he has been in it for so long. What people don't understand is when you are a head coach you deal with all of the stress. You come to a point where do you let football be your whole life. If he does retire, I can understand it."
Talks to extend his contract broke off in August. Cowher plans to leave today to join his wife and youngest daughter in his new home in Raleigh, N.C.
"He's going to give some thought about it," said Porter. "But I think if he comes to a point where he's at ease with himself and he feels good about it, a week from today or something like that, it'll be clear-cut on his decision he has for us."
Porter and Faneca both hugged Cowher in their meetings. Faneca said he felt it would be the last time they see him as their coach.
"The team meeting was handled in a manner, I think, anybody who's not sure of [him] coming back, this could be the last one," Faneca said. "It definitely had that feeling and tone to it ...
"Yesterday was handled as if it could have been his last game. Today was handled as if it could have been his last meeting. It adds to it, but I think it's the same feeling I've had."