Bill Cowher

Bill Cowher
No. 53
Position: Linebacker
Personal information
Born: (1957-05-08) May 8, 1957
Crafton, Pennsylvania
Height: 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Career information
College: NC State
Undrafted: 1979
Career history
As player:
As coach:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Win-Loss Record: 161–99–1
Winning %: .618
Games: 261
Player stats at
Coaching stats at PFR

William Laird Cowher (born May 8, 1957) is a former professional American football coach and player in the National Football League (NFL). In Cowher's 15 seasons as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team won eight division titles and made 10 playoff appearances. Cowher led the Steelers to the Super Bowl twice, winning one. He is the second coach in NFL history to reach the playoffs in each of his first six seasons as head coach, a feat previously accomplished by Paul Brown. Cowher resigned as head coach of the Steelers on January 5, 2007, 11 months after winning Super Bowl XL in 2006 over the Seattle Seahawks. Cowher was replaced by current Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. Before being hired by the Steelers in 1992, Cowher served as an assistant coach for the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs under head coach Marty Schottenheimer. He is currently a studio analyst for The NFL Today.

Early life

Born in Crafton, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Cowher excelled in football, basketball, and track for Carlynton High. At North Carolina State University, he was a starting linebacker, team captain, and team MVP in his senior year. He graduated in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in education.

Professional career

Cowher began his NFL career as a linebacker with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1979, but signed with the Cleveland Browns the following year. Cowher played three seasons (1980–82) in Cleveland, making him a member of the Kardiac Kids, before being traded back to the Eagles, where he played two more years (1983–84). His tenure in Philadelphia included tackling a young Jeff Fisher (who later became the head coach of the Tennessee Titans) when playing against the Chicago Bears, causing Fisher to break his leg.[1] The two would later be rival head coaches and friends in the AFC Central division, and Fisher has credited his injury at the hands of Cowher with having the unintended consequence of propelling him into coaching.

Cowher primarily played special teams during his playing career, and placed emphasis on special teams during his coaching career. Cowher credits being a "bubble player" during his playing career with influencing his coaching career, feeling that such players work the hardest for a roster spot (and sometimes still get cut, hence the term "bubble player"), and thus make better head coaches than those with successful playing careers.

Coaching career

Cowher began his coaching career in 1985 at age 28 under Marty Schottenheimer with the Cleveland Browns. He was the Browns' special teams coach in 1985–86 and secondary coach in 1987–88 before following Schottenheimer to the Kansas City Chiefs in 1989 as defensive coordinator. He was a finalist for the Cincinnati Bengals head coaching position in 1991 following the dismissal of Sam Wyche, but was passed over in favor of Dave Shula, presumably due to Bengals owner Mike Brown seeing similarities with himself and Shula in the same manner that their respective fathers (Don Shula and Paul Brown) overshadow them in many aspects; Cowher would go on to have a 22-9 career record against the Bengals, the most wins he would have against any team as a head coach.[2]

He became the 15th head coach in Steelers history when he succeeded Chuck Noll on January 21, 1992 – but only the second head coach since the NFL merger in 1970, beating out fellow Pittsburgh native and Pitt alumnus (and eventual Pitt head coach) Dave Wannstedt.[3] Under Cowher, the Steelers showed an immediate improvement from the disappointing 7–9 season the year before, going 11–5 and earning home field advantage in the AFC after the Steelers had missed the playoffs six times out of the previous seven years. In 1995, at age 38, he became the youngest coach to lead his team to a Super Bowl. Cowher is only the second coach in NFL history to lead his team to the playoffs in each of his first six seasons as head coach, joining Pro Football Hall of Fame member Paul Brown.

In Cowher’s 15 seasons, the Steelers captured eight division titles, earned 10 postseason playoff berths, played in 21 playoff games, advanced to six AFC Championship games and made two Super Bowl appearances. He is one of only six coaches in NFL history to claim at least seven division titles. At the conclusion of the 2005 season, the Steelers had the best record of any team in the NFL since Cowher was hired as head coach.

On February 5, 2006, Cowher's Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XL by defeating the Seattle Seahawks 21–10, giving Cowher his first Super Bowl ring. Through the Super Bowl, Cowher's team had compiled a record of 108–1–1 in games in which they built a lead of at least 11 points.[4]

During the following season, there was talk about Cowher leaving the Steelers, ostensibly to spend more time with his family. On January 5, 2007, Cowher stepped down after 15 years at the helm of the franchise. The Steelers hired former Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin as Cowher's successor.

Cowher's record as a head coach is 149–90–1 (161–99–1 including playoff games).

After coaching

On February 15, 2007, he signed on to The NFL Today on CBS as a studio analyst, joining Dan Marino, Shannon Sharpe, and Boomer Esiason.

In 2007, Cowher appeared in the ABC reality television series Fast Cars and Superstars: The Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race, featuring a dozen celebrities in a stock car racing competition. Cowher matched up against Gabrielle Reece and William Shatner.

On March 4, 2008, Cowher responded to rumors concerning his coaching future by stating, "I'm not going anywhere."[5] The rumors started after the Cowhers placed their Raleigh, North Carolina home on the market, but their intention was to build a new house two miles away.

Putting an end to numerous unfounded rumors of his return to coaching in the NFL in 2009, Cowher stated on The NFL Today that he did not plan to coach again in the immediate future.[6]

In July 2010, Cowher was the keynote speaker for National Agents Alliance at their Leadership Conference. He talked about work ethic, leadership and how that transfers into the work force. He said it's not about what you accomplish, it's about who you touch along the way.[7]

Cowher had a part in the movie The Dark Knight Rises (2012), which was filmed at Heinz Field, the home of the Steelers, in downtown Pittsburgh. He played the head coach of the Gotham Rogues.[8]

Coaching tree

Assistant coaches under Bill Cowher that became head coaches in the NFL:

Personal life

Cowher's late wife, Kaye (née Young), also a North Carolina State University graduate, played professional basketball for the New York Stars of the (now defunct) Women's Pro Basketball League with her twin sister, Faye. Kaye was featured in the book Mad Seasons: The Story of the First Women's Professional Basketball League, 1978–1981, by Karra Porter (University of Nebraska Press, 2006). Kaye Cowher died of skin cancer at age 54 on July 23, 2010.[9] The couple had three daughters: Meagan, Lauren, and Lindsay. Meagan and Lauren played basketball at Princeton University. Lindsay played basketball at Wofford College before transferring to Elon University. In 2007, the Cowher family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, from the Pittsburgh suburb of Fox Chapel. Meagan married NHL forward Kevin Westgarth of the Calgary Flames in 2011.[10] Lindsay married NBA forward Ryan Kelly of the Atlanta Hawks on August 2, 2014.[11]

Cowher married Veronica Stigeler in 2014.[12] In 2018 Cowher put his Raleigh house in North Ridge Country Club up for sale after announcing he would be moving to New York full-time.[13]


Cowher was on the cover of EA Sports' 2006 video game NFL Head Coach. He appears in TV advertising for Time Warner Cable.[14] His likeness and voice was featured in Madden NFL 19 as the new coach of Houston Texans in the Longshot 2: Homecoming storyline.

Head coaching record

TeamYearRegular seasonPostseason
WonLostTiesWin %FinishWonLostWin %Result
PIT1992 1150.6881st in AFC Central01.000Lost to Buffalo Bills in AFC Divisional Game.
PIT1993 970.5632nd in AFC Central01.000Lost to Kansas City Chiefs in AFC Wild-Card Game.
PIT1994 1240.7501st in AFC Central11.500Lost to San Diego Chargers in AFC Championship Game.
PIT1995 1150.6881st in AFC Central21.667Lost to Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX.
PIT1996 1060.6251st in AFC Central11.500Lost to New England Patriots in AFC Divisional Game.
PIT1997 1150.6881st in AFC Central11.500Lost to Denver Broncos in AFC Championship Game.
PIT1998 790.4383rd in AFC Central
PIT1999 6100.3754th in AFC Central
PIT2000 970.5633rd in AFC Central
PIT2001 1330.8121st in AFC Central11.500Lost to New England Patriots in AFC Championship Game.
PIT2002 1051.6561st in AFC North11.500Lost to Tennessee Titans in AFC Divisional Game.
PIT2003 6100.3753rd in AFC North
PIT2004 1510.9381st in AFC North11.500Lost to New England Patriots in AFC Championship Game.
PIT2005 1150.6882nd in AFC North401.000Super Bowl XL Champions.
PIT2006 880.5003rd in AFC North
PIT Total149901.623129.571

Coaching record vs. other teams

How the Steelers fared in games with Cowher as head coach.

TeamWinsLossesTiesWin Pct.
Arizona Cardinals 2100.667
Atlanta Falcons 3110.700[a]
Baltimore Ravens 13900.591
Buffalo Bills 5200.714
Carolina Panthers 3100.750
Chicago Bears 3100.750
Cincinnati Bengals 21900.700
Cleveland Browns 19500.792
Dallas Cowboys 1200.333
Denver Broncos 1300.250
Detroit Lions 4100.800
Green Bay Packers 2200.500
Houston Texans 1100.500
Indianapolis Colts 4100.800
Jacksonville Jaguars 81000.444
Kansas City Chiefs 5300.625
Miami Dolphins 5200.714
Minnesota Vikings 2200.500
New England Patriots 4300.571
New Orleans Saints 2100.667
New York Giants 2100.667
New York Jets 4100.800
Oakland Raiders 5200.714
Philadelphia Eagles 2200.500
St. Louis Rams 1200.333
San Diego Chargers 7200.778
San Francisco 49ers 1300.250
Seattle Seahawks 2400.333
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3100.750
Tennessee Titans 111200.478
Washington Redskins 3001.000
Totals:  1499010.623[a]


a For the purposes of calculating winning percentage ties are counted as ½ of a win and ½ of a loss

Coaching record vs. other teams (playoffs)

How the Steelers fared in playoff games with Cowher as head coach.

TeamWinsLossesWin Pct.
Baltimore Ravens 101.000
Buffalo Bills 110.500
Cincinnati Bengals 101.000
Cleveland Browns 201.000
Dallas Cowboys 010.000
Denver Broncos 110.500
Indianapolis Colts 301.000
Kansas City Chiefs 010.000
New England Patriots 130.250
New York Jets 101.000
San Diego Chargers 010.000
Seattle Seahawks 101.000
Tennessee Titans 010.000
Totals:  1290.571

See also


  1. Silver, Michael (October 7, 1996). "Making A Statement". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
  4. Collier, Gene (February 6, 2006). "Taylor's interception clips Seahawk's wings". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved March 29, 2010.
  5. Bouchette, Ed (2008-03-05). "Cowhers will move, but not to Penn State". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on March 8, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-07.
  6. "Cowher Doesn't Plan on Coaching in 2009". TSN. 2009-01-04. Retrieved 2009-01-04.
  7. "Bill Cowher talks to National Agents Alliance Agents about opportunity and hard work".
  8. Aaron on August 7, 2011 at 4:52pm View Blog (2011-08-07). "Aaron's Experience As An Extra On 'The Dark Knight Rises' *SPOILERS INCLUDED* - The Spill Movie Community". Retrieved 2012-08-03.
  9. Kaye Cowher dies from skin cancer Accessed July 24, 2010
  10. "Bill Cowher's daughter to wed NHL enforcer". 2011-07-13. Archived from the original on 2012-07-16. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
  11. "Lindsay Cowher gets engaged to Ryan Kelly from Duke". May 24, 2013. Archived from the original on January 1, 2014.
  14. Tara DeGeorges (2013-04-12). "Enjoy Sports Better: Bill Cowher is TWC's Head Coach". Retrieved 2014-09-17.
  15. "Bill Cowher Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks –". 1957-05-08. Retrieved 2012-08-03.

Further reading

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