By John Harris
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
Bill Cowher and outside linebacker Joey Porter are closer than your typical coach and player.
When Porter addressed the possibility of holding out prior to the season because he wanted to renegotiate his contract, Cowher begged him to report to training camp because he needed his fiery leadership.
Against his better wishes, Porter complied because of his tremendous respect for Cowher.
In the opener against Miami, Porter kissed Cowher on the sideline after returning an interception for a touchdown.
Following Sunday's 23-17 overtime win over Cincinnati, Porter put his relationship with Cowher to the test when he asked Cowher in the locker room if he was leaving.
Even if Cowher leaves after 15 seasons, Porter, 29, insists he wants to finish his career with the team that drafted him. He said it's wrong to assume he doesn't want to remain with the Steelers if Cowher isn't around.
"No matter who the coach is, I play for the Steelers. I'm the type of player I want to start what I finish," Porter said immediately after the game. "I started here, I want to finish here. Give me the opportunity to be a lifelong Steeler."
Following Monday's exit interview with Cowher, Porter re-emphasized his loyalty to the Steelers. He said he doesn't know whether Cowher is coming back, but that Cowher's decision won't impact what he does.
Porter feels like he's done his part. His sack total dipped from 10 1/2 a year ago, when he led all NFL linebackers, to seven, which led the Steelers during a season in which they missed the playoffs after winning Super Bowl XL.
Porter recorded two more tackles this season (63-61) and continued his role as the team's emotional leader.
"At the end of the day, it's going to be up to the organization. I'm here," said Porter, who ranks fourth on the Steelers' all-time list with 60 career sacks. "At the beginning of the season, everyone wants to know, 'Oh, why does he have such a bad attitude?'
"I've never had an attitude toward the Steelers. This is home for me. I knew how it was going to be when I got back, I was going to resume my position as a leader and try to win football games."