ORLANDO, Fla. -- Moments after they snapped the annual team photo of NFL coaches yesterday, the group scattered save for two men who lingered another 15 minutes.
Bill Cowher and Bill Belichick chatted and laughed like old neighbors over a backyard fence. Together, they've won four of the past five Super Bowls. Now that Cowher's Steelers won their first in 26 years, he would like to join New England's Belichick in more than friendship. He would like to win a second consecutive Super Bowl.
"When they've won, they've done it with humility and they've done it with class," Cowher said of Belichick's Patriots, who won two AFC championship games in Heinz Field. "I think that's why they've been able to play at a very consistent level -- they've kept a very simple approach to the game. They've never taken themselves very seriously. They realize it's done through a lot of hard work and a lot of good fortune.
"I learned a lot just watching them handle that and hopefully we can emulate what they've done. Three in four years is not easy. We've done it once; nobody can take that away from you, but now the challenge is to be able to maintain that same level."
Three in four years? The Super Bowl honeymoon appears to be over as the Steelers begin their quest to win another.
"When you have opportunities that we have in front of us to do that, you have to ride it," Cowher said. "We have a lot of people back. It's not going to be easy, it's a big challenge, but boy, to me it's very invigorating. I think we're all kind of champing at the bit to get back."
Not that Cowher hasn't enjoyed the ride since his team beat Seattle Feb. 5 in Detroit. He cannot walk far around the Hyatt Grand Cypress Hotel without receiving congratulations from most everyone at these NFL meetings, including Belichick.
"Bill Belichick's a guy I have tremendous respect for," Cowher said. "We talked even before the Super Bowl this last time and he was very insightful, not so much [about strategy] but kind of what he's gone through the last few years. It'd been 10 years since we'd been to one."
Cowher, speaking at length publicly for the first time since the Super Bowl, revealed he took a different approach through the 2005 playoffs than he had previously.
"I probably coached more desperate and more fearful of losing than I was questing to win. You coach a little bit different that way, particularly in the Super Bowl. Having been there, people don't realize that loss stings more than any championship game loss, particularly when you have two weeks to lead up to a game of that magnitude."
Among other topics Cowher addressed yesterday:
On the media reaction in Pittsburgh to his buying a house in North Carolina:
"I call them the PP, the Pittsburgh papparazzi. I guess that just comes with the territory and I respect that. We have very passionate fans. They've always been that way, not just now. I'm very respectful of that but at the same time I think people have to be a little bit respectful of what you do in your personal life."
On moves the Steelers have made the past two weeks:
"I like the fact we were able to get Jerame Tuman back, Brett Keisel back. We lost Chris Hope but I like the kid we got from the Redskins, Ryan Clark, I think he's a good, young player. I was glad we got Deshea [Townsend], I thought that was very important, bringing him back. Kimo [von Oelhoffen] is a tough loss. I'm a big fan of him. Getting Verron Haynes back ... may be one of our most important ones."
On the prospect of adding a back to compete with Duce Staley and Willie Parker:
"I feel good about the competition we have there. That will not hinder us; if we feel we can better our football team with another back, we will do so."
On Seattle coach Mike Holmgren blaming the officials for helping cost the Seahawks the Super Bowl:
"I would attribute some of that to frustration and a little bit of what happened in Cincinnati after that game, too. I understand it. I think time heals all those. When it's all said and done, people aren't going to think about penalties, they're going to think about who won the game. Part of any game is how you respond to anything. I've seen all those calls that were made, I've seen them made in other games. They were judgment calls. I don't think anything was really missed. ... It's all a matter of who's viewing it."
On his "Who Dey?" chant that mocked the Bengals after the Steelers' playoff victory and again at the Super Bowl parade:
"I kind of regret what happened. At the parade, I kind of got caught up in that. The locker room thing is kind of the locker room. I have a lot of respect for Mike Brown and for [coach Marvin Lewis], and the fact is that they won our division. They're the team we have to beat in our division because they're the ones on top. Marvin has done a fantastic job of turning around the whole mind-set and the whole culture of the Cincinnati Bengals. There's a lot of pride when they walk on the field and they have an expectation of winning. I'm sure the first time we play next year, I will have to relive everything I did and I will regret that and I will apologize at the time. It wasn't done with disrespect. It probably was done out of respect. What do they say? Imitation is the biggest form of flattery? That's the boat I'm in."Matt Freed, Post-Gazette
Steelers coach Bill Cowher celebrates beside his wife, Kaye, after beating Seattle for the Super Bowl title.
Click photo for larger image.
Ed Bouchette can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-3878.