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-07-26-2004 #1DJRamFan Guest
Steelers sign Cowher to 2-year extension
ESPN.com news services
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher signed a two-year contract extension Monday -- the second time since 2001 he has agreed to a new deal after his team missed the playoffs the preceding season.
The extension, which carries through the 2007 season, is expected to keep Cowher's salary competitive with those of the game's highest-paid head coaches. Cowher's current deal pays him $3 million per season, and team president Art Rooney II said the coach was given a raise in his new contract.
Cowher agreed to his current contract, which runs through the 2005 season, after the Steelers rebounded from consecutive losing seasons by going 9-7 in 2000 but still missed the playoffs.
The 47-year-old Cowher has a 115-76-1 record in 12 seasons, with only three losing seasons. His seven division titles are the fifth most in NFL coaching history, and the Steelers have reached the playoffs 12 times under Cowher despite missing them four of the last six seasons.
"I can't think of a better job," said Cowher, a Pittsburgh native. "To me, it's not about the market or the money, to me it's about winning. ... I never could have imagined coaching another team."
Under Cowher, the Steelers have played in the Super Bowl once and appeared in four AFC title games, but the franchise has not won an NFL title since the fourth and last of their Super Bowl wins under former coach Chuck Noll during the 1979 season.
"He's at the point where he's made enough money, he's raising his family, he's been successful, and there's only one thing left to do and we feel he can do it here, and that's win a championship," Rooney said. "That's what it comes down to: Do you believe your coach can win a championship for you?"
Cowher called not winning the Super Bowl "the void" in his career he is trying to fill.
"It's about doing what I was brought here to do 12 years ago, for one of the classiest owners in the league [Dan Rooney], if not the classiest owner in the league, and that's what drives me and will continue to drive me," Cowher said.
Cowher has traditionally signed extensions with two years remaining on his contract, and did so again this year. The Steelers begin training camp Friday, and both sides sought to get a deal done before then to avoid distractions. In the past, the team usually has not negotiated contracts once a season begins.
Cowher has the most seniority of any active NFL coach, and only eight coaches have coached one team longer than Cowher has -- including Noll, who coached the Steelers from 1969 to 1991. Cowher's 122 career victories, counting postseason wins, are second in team history to Noll's 209.
"We have a system where the players come and go, and the best way to deal with that is have coaching stability," Rooney said. "We think their record has proven that's a pretty good way to go about it."
While the Steelers change coaches less frequently than any other team in major pro sports -- they have had only two coaches in 35 years -- Cowher goes into this season following yet another realignment of his coaching staff.
The Steelers fired defensive coordinator Tim Lewis after last season and brought back Dick LeBeau, who previously held the job in the mid 1990s. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey also left to become the Bills' coach and was replaced by Ken Whisenhunt, formerly an offensive assistant. Offensive line coach Russ Grimm also added the title of assistant head coach.
Information from ESPN.com senior writer Len Pasquarelli and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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