Players now believe Cowher is quitting
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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."
Those players who spoke publicly after yesterday's meetings said they do not feel abandoned by their coach less than a year after they won a Super Bowl.
"No, he's going to be missed," Faneca said. "Everybody has his time, whether they're playing or coaching. There are decisions in life and other things in football, if that's what it is. I think you have to respect everyone's decision."
The Steelers do not expect Cowher to reveal his plans this week, but Cowher said it won't be long after that. They'd like a quick decision because they'd like to begin the search for his successor as soon as possible.
Offensive line coach Russ Grimm, also the assistant head coach, and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt are considered prime candidates to replace Cowher. One or both also could be attractive candidates elsewhere, particularly in Atlanta and Arizona, teams that fired their coaches yesterday. Whisenhunt is a Georgia native who played at Georgia Tech and was a tight end for the Falcons. He also started his pro coaching career with them.
However, team president Art Rooney II and his father, team chairman Dan Rooney, might not want to be pressured to move quickly to look for a new coach. They would prefer to go through a more thorough process than to react to what another NFL team might do.
"The Rooneys know how to find good coaches," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "If he does go, they know how to pick winners. I'm not worried about that at all."
Said safety Ryan Clark, "I just want it to be somebody from here."Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Bill Cowher argues a call in game Sunday against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
Click photo for larger image.
First Published January 2, 2007 12:00 am