Is Potential Return Of Coaching Keeping Former Pittsburgh Steelers Bill Cowher Away From HOF?


The Pittsburgh Steelers yet again have two former players on the list of the 15 finalists for this year’s class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame – Jerome Bettis and Kevin Greene.  It’s another strong class of potential enshrinees, but this could be Bettis’ year to get in.  It’s Bettis’ and Greene’s fourth year in a row of being nominees and their third year in a row of becoming finalists.  There was one former, Steeler, however who failed to make the cut to even the semi-finalist round.  You would think Bill Cowher would be a shoe in to advance rather far, but apparently, it’s been a struggle.

The chin.  The spit.  The scowl.  The Pittsburgh Steelers and Steeler Nation loved them some Bill Cowher.  And, Cowher proved during his tenure of 15 years as the Steelers head coach that he had the prowess to be a great football coach.  Well all know the history – 161-99-1 overall record, 2 Super Bowl appearances, 1 Super Bowl Win, 6 straight playoff appearances in his first six seasons with three appearances in the AFC Championship during that time.  The legend that’s been built up about Cowher is that he was a tough mean SOB with his players on the field.  He was passionate and emotional.  God, that chin.  He took an average team as the Chuck Knoll era ended and made them into a strong defensive squad that channeled the ghosts of the Steel Curtain.

There’s no doubt that Cowher was a very good coach.  Great at times even.  He left the coaching world too early, and soon found himself in a cushy desk job as a Sunday morning analyst on CBS.  Cowher became eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame last season, and became one of the 126 first round nominees for the Class of 2013.  He was cut when the 126 first rounders were paired down to 25 semifinalists.  This year, the results for the Class of 2014 are yielding similar results.  Cowher was once again part of the original 126 nominees announced back in September of last year, and once again, Cowher was axed from the list as the group became narrowed down to the 25 semifinalists in November.

Jan 29, 2013, New Orleans, LA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers former coach Bill Cowher at CBS sports Super Bowl XLVII press conference at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What is it that is keeping Cowher from even becoming a member of the 25 semifinalist group?  Is his 15 year coaching career flawed enough to keep him out of the same hall as the likes of Don Shula and Bill Parcells?  Parcells had a worse overall record (by far) than Cowher.  Parcells had one more Super Bowl win and took teams to the Super Bowl from both the NFC and AFC.  But the Tuna isn’t that much better, is he?

Or maybe it’s the speculation that Cowher will return to coaching in the near future.  Cowher has always played it cool whenever he’s been approached about coaching again in the league.  Everyone knows he’ll be back, but no one knows exactly when.  Neither does Cowher it seems.  However, he did at least say that he wanted to return when asked just this past Wednesday if he would return to coaching.  The NFL and its fans will see that chin on a sideline once again, but when and where are still clouded in mystery.  Even prior to comments to Newsday on Wednesday, many suspect that Cowher has the itch.  Could it be that the committee realizes this and is keeping him from going any further in the HOF process because he return to coaching?  Maybe they want to see if he’s ‘still got it’ after all these years away from coaching and is deserved of a bronze selfie.

I think that might be playing a big part of what’s keeping Cowher from getting into any round further than the opening list of nominees.  If he’s going to go for that bust in Canton, then he’s either going to have to state that he’s done for good OR he’s going to have to get back out there and coach.  Getting into the Hall is tough, as it should be.  There’s a ton of talent out there year after year that is debated ad nauseam for HOF potential.  Good players and coaches every year don’t quite make the cut every round.

Is Cowher good enough to get in as it stands?  I think, regardless of his intentions (and if that is indeed what’s keeping him out), he will always fall short unless he gets out there and brings in another Super Bowl win.