American Football Database
Bill Cowher
File:Bill Cowher.jpg
No. 53     
Head Coach
Personal information
Date of birth: (1957-05-08) May 8, 1957 (age 65)
Place of birth: Crafton, Pennsylvania
Career information
College: North Carolina State
Undrafted in 1979
Debuted in 1980 for the Cleveland Browns
Last played in 1984 for the Philadelphia Eagles
Made coaching debut in 1985 for the Cleveland Browns
Last coached in 2006 for the Pittsburgh Steelers
Career history
 As player:
 As coach:
Career highlights and awards
Win-Loss Record     149–90–1
Winning %     .623
Games     240
Stats at

William Laird "Bill" 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 to the day after winning Super Bowl XL in 2006. 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.[citation needed]

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 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. 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.[2]

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."[3] The Cowhers placed their Raleigh, North Carolina home on the market, with the intention of building 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.[4]

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.[5]

Coaching tree

File:Bill Cowher challenge.jpg

Cowher challenges a play

Assistant coaches under Bill Cowher that became Head Coaches in the NFL:


Bill 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.[6]

Bill and Kaye have three daughters. Daughters Meagan and Lauren played basketball at Princeton University, and Lindsay played basketball at Wofford College before transferring to Elon University. In 2007, the Cowher family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina from suburban Pittsburgh. Meagan married NHL forward Kevin Westgarth of the Calgary Flames.[when?][7] Lindsay is engaged to NBA forward Ryan Kelly of the Los Angeles Lakers.[8]


Cowher is under an exclusive autograph contract with the Mounted Memories company of Florida. Cowher was also on the cover of EA Sports' 2006 video game NFL Head Coach. Cowher appears in TV advertising for Time Warner Cable.

Head coaching record

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
PIT 1992 11 5 0 .688 1st in AFC Central 0 1 .000 Lost to Buffalo Bills in AFC Divisional Game.
PIT 1993 9 7 0 .563 2nd in AFC Central 0 1 .000 Lost to Kansas City Chiefs in AFC Wild-Card Game.
PIT 1994 12 4 0 .750 1st in AFC Central 1 1 .500 Lost to San Diego Chargers in AFC Championship Game.
PIT 1995 11 5 0 .688 1st in AFC Central 2 1 .667 Lost to Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX.
PIT 1996 10 6 0 .625 1st in AFC Central 1 1 .500 Lost to New England Patriots in AFC Divisional Game.
PIT 1997 11 5 0 .688 1st in AFC Central 1 1 .500 Lost to Denver Broncos in AFC Championship Game.
PIT 1998 7 9 0 .438 3rd in AFC Central
PIT 1999 6 10 0 .375 4th in AFC Central
PIT 2000 9 7 0 .563 3rd in AFC Central
PIT 2001 13 3 0 .812 1st in AFC Central 1 1 .500 Lost to New England Patriots in AFC Championship Game.
PIT 2002 10 5 1 .656 1st in AFC North 1 1 .500 Lost to Tennessee Titans in AFC Divisional Game.
PIT 2003 6 10 0 .375 3rd in AFC North
PIT 2004 15 1 0 .938 1st in AFC North 1 1 .500 Lost to New England Patriots in AFC Championship Game.
PIT 2005 11 5 0 .688 2nd in AFC North 4 0 1.000 Super Bowl XL Champions.
PIT 2006 8 8 0 .500 3rd in AFC North
PIT Total 149 90 1 .623 12 9 .571
Total[9] 149 90 1 .623 12 9 .571

Coaching record vs. other teams

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

Team Wins Losses Ties Win Pct.
Arizona Cardinals 2 1 0 0.667
Atlanta Falcons 3 1 1 0.700[a]
Baltimore Ravens 13 9 0 0.591
Buffalo Bills 5 2 0 0.714
Carolina Panthers 3 1 0 0.750
Chicago Bears 3 1 0 0.750
Cincinnati Bengals 21 9 0 0.700
Cleveland Browns 19 5 0 0.792
Dallas Cowboys 1 2 0 0.333
Denver Broncos 1 3 0 0.250
Detroit Lions 4 1 0 0.800
Green Bay Packers 2 2 0 0.500
Houston Texans 1 1 0 0.500
Indianapolis Colts 4 1 0 0.800
Jacksonville Jaguars 8 10 0 0.444
Kansas City Chiefs 5 3 0 0.625
Miami Dolphins 5 2 0 0.714
Minnesota Vikings 2 2 0 0.500
New England Patriots 4 3 0 0.571
New Orleans Saints 2 1 0 0.667
New York Giants 2 1 0 0.667
New York Jets 4 1 0 0.800
Oakland Raiders 5 2 0 0.714
Philadelphia Eagles 2 2 0 0.500
St. Louis Rams 1 2 0 0.333
San Diego Chargers 7 2 0 0.778
San Francisco 49ers 1 3 0 0.250
Seattle Seahawks 2 4 0 0.333
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3 1 0 0.750
Tennessee Titans 11 12 0 0.478
Washington Redskins 3 0 0 1.000
Totals:  149 90 1 0.623[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.

Team Wins Losses Win Pct.
Baltimore Ravens 1 0 1.000
Buffalo Bills 1 1 0.500
Cincinnati Bengals 1 0 1.000
Cleveland Browns 2 0 1.000
Dallas Cowboys 0 1 0.000
Denver Broncos 1 1 0.500
Indianapolis Colts 3 0 1.000
Kansas City Chiefs 0 1 0.000
New England Patriots 1 3 0.250
New York Jets 1 0 1.000
San Diego Chargers 0 1 0.000
Seattle Seahawks 1 0 1.000
Tennessee Titans 0 1 0.000
Totals:  12 9 0.571

See also

Notes and references

  1. Silver, Michael (October 7, 1996). "Making A Statement". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
  2. Collier, Gene (February 6, 2006). "Taylor's interception clips Seahawk's wings". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved March 29, 2010.
  3. 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.
  4. "Cowher Doesn't Plan on Coaching in 2009". TSN. 2009-01-04. Retrieved 2009-01-04.
  5. Posted by 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.
  6. Kaye Cowher dies from skin cancer Accessed July 24, 2010
  7. "Bill Cowher's daughter to wed NHL enforcer". 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
  8. "Lindsay Cowher gets engaged to Ryan Kelly from Duke". 2013-05-24.
  9. "Bill Cowher Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks –". 1957-05-08. Retrieved 2012-08-03.

Further reading

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Rod Rust
Kansas City Chiefs Defensive Coordinator
Succeeded by
Dave Adolph