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Old 07-30-2005, 11:27 PM   #1
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Default Steelers facing great expectations

Steelers facing great expectations
Sunday, July 31, 2005
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bill Cowher knows expectations the way he knows expectorations; they can get messy at times.

High expectations will be the theme for Cowher's 14th training camp as Steelers coach when all players under contract are required to report by 6 p.m. at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. What else but a rosy outlook could be formed for a team that went 15-1 last season behind the greatest performance by a rookie quarterback and a defense that finished No. 1 in the NFL?

"I think there's a greater challenge this year coming back with that same look in our eye than there was the year before, because there was low expectation," Cowher said.

Actually, there were no expectations one year ago for a team that slumped to 6-10 in 2003. But the NFL of the 21st century is one in which fortunes can change dramatically and almost instantaneously. While that was a good thing for the 2004 Steelers, they also hope it also will bode well for 2005.

The Steelers don't care about matching their 15-1 record. They want their fortunes to change in the postseason. Becoming the first team from the AFC to win 15 regular-season games doesn't mean much compared to becoming the first from their conference to win a fifth Super Bowl.

They did celebrate a Super Bowl victory last year, but it was the silver anniversary of their last Lombardi Trophy, which came in January 1980. A generation has passed since the Steelers were NFL champs and, in the spring, club president Art Rooney II said it's about time they achieve that status again.

"I think for the people who have been around for a while now, I think we all feel like it's time," Rooney said. "We've been close and we have to take that last step."

The 2004 season was enjoyable, Rooney said, but the end was not.

"Look, statistically it was our best ever," said Rooney, who is entering his third season at the helm of the Steelers after succeeding his father, Dan. "You can't dismiss that. It's something everybody can be proud of. It's certainly an accomplishment."

But ...

"In our business, the bottom line is, did you win a championship? So that's still the way you measure your success by."

Cowher and his players expressed similar opinions.

"No one wants it more than myself, our team and my staff," Cowher said.

And no one on his team carries such desire more than Jerome Bettis. It's the only reason he returned to play a 13th NFL season. The Steelers can do better than 15-1, Bettis said.

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