Tuesday, August 15, 2006
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Jerome Bettis isn't in training camp anymore, but he is still delivering big hits that reverberate through Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.
In his first appearance in his new role as a studio analyst for NBC Sports, Bettis said he believes coach Bill Cowher will retire at the end of the 2006 season, based on a conversation he had with Cowher after the Steelers won the Super Bowl.
Bettis made the comment before Sunday night's nationally televised preseason game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins.
The comments did not sit well with Cowher, who phoned Bettis yesterday and told his former running back he is "very disappointed" about what he said.
"He understands my position and I wanted to make sure he understood it," Cowher said. "I think a lot of people thought he and I have been speaking [a lot]. We haven't been speaking. That was one conversation we had and there was nothing confidential given to him at the time."
In a conversation with studio host Bob Costas during his network TV debut, Bettis said about Cowher's future:
"I really think this is the last year for coach Cowher in Pittsburgh, and I say that because I got the opportunity to talk to him after the season was over, when everything really settled down, and he was a different coach, he was a different guy.
"He was very reflective, talked about his family, talked about spending more time ... after that he bought a house down in Raleigh [N.C.], his daughter enrolled in school there. All that leads to coach not coming back after the season."
Cowher, though, said the conversation took place in March, about a month after the Super Bowl, and that he has "refocused" since then.
Bettis could not be reached for comment.
Cowher has typically received an extension whenever he has two years remaining on his contract, but the Steelers have stopped talking to his agent, Phil DePicciotto, about a new deal. Sources close to the situation have told the Post-Gazette that Cowher has told associates he is considering retirement at the end of the season.
"Jerome and I talked in March, which is about a month after the Super Bowl, and there was no confidential information given," Cowher said. "We were both very reflective at the time. ... We have not talked since then. He has to understand, like anything, this has been a long year, but as you get closer to training camp time has a way of refocusing people.
"Last year was a special year, and you probably do, like anyone normal would do, you reflect. I think, as the time came off, as I got closer to training camp, we had about five weeks off, and by the end of that fifth week I was ready for training camp.
"I've been very focused on getting this football team back this year, and that's where my focus is. I don't like talking about anything other than that, anything personal, because it's about our football team."
Cowher said this is the last time he will publicly discuss his future with the Steelers.
"I think there's been a lot of speculation about my future. I'm here to say once again it's purely that -- speculation. I don't like talking about the contract because we're in camp. I love coaching football. I love coaching here ... and I'm going to leave it at that."