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Old 03-28-2006, 12:59 AM   #1
83-Steelers-43
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Default Cowher Not Ready for Retirement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Sitting poolside on a chaise lounge with the sun beaming off his designer sunglasses, Bill Cowher looked at ease here in the land of retired people.
Truth be told, it's easy to see how a guy could get used to this lifestyle, particularly a guy who just coached the Steelers to a Super Bowl title, a guy who has Hall of Fame credentials, a guy who recently purchased a $2.5 million home in Raleigh, N.C.

Oh, yes, about that home in Raleigh. What does it mean?

"It means I bought a house in North Carolina," Cowher said Monday at the NFL meetings, held at the Hyatt Grand Cypress hotel adjacent to the Magic Kingdom. "It really means nothing. I think it's really irrelevant."

Rumors have circulated about Cowher's so-called retirement since it became public early this month that he'd purchased the second of his two homes in North Carolina. He also owns a dwelling on Bald Head Island.

And, while it's true that Cowher, 48, plans to retire to North Carolina one day, he has not set a target date.

"I just try to take it one year at a time," said the Crafton native, who is heading into his 15th season with the Steelers. "At the end of each year, you have to sit back and reassess where you are and just make sure that you still have the passion for doing it. I want to be fair to the football team and to make sure I can make the fullest commitment and to give everything that I've got. It's not an easy job. It's very demanding from a standpoint of not just of your time, but of your emotion, of everything you throw into it. It's a very long year, and I think if you aren't committed to it and you don't have a passion for it, you're not being fair to the team, and I wouldn't be fair to myself."

Steelers president Art Rooney II does not think Cowher is going anywhere anytime soon. He said yesterday that the team will continue its standard practice of negotiating an extension of Cowher's contract now that it has two years remaining. Talks have yet to commence.

"Look, I think he certainly is interested in continuing to coach," Rooney said. "He's a young guy. He's got some years left in him. But, on the other hand, being an NFL coach is a tough job, and I'm sure he's not planning on coaching until he's 65 or 70. So, I think it's something we'll sit down and talk about when he feels like it's time, but I don't think I read as much into this as some other people read into it, in terms of him just buying a house down there."

Asked if he expects Cowher to ask for a pay increase from his current salary of nearly $4 million, Rooney would not speculate.

"Who knows? I'm not going to predict where it's going to go," Rooney said. "Obviously, I'm sure his agent will be looking at what the top coaches get."

Carolina Panthers coach John Fox, who has not won a Super Bowl, reportedly signed a five-year, $25 million deal yesterday.

Cowher and Rooney separately spoke yesterday about their desire to win back-to-back Super Bowls and how it would elevate this Steelers franchise to elite status -- "Few teams can achieve it; we have a chance to really put ourselves in a special place," Rooney said.

"When you have the opportunities that we have in front of us to do that, you gotta ride it," Cowher said. "You gotta ride it. We got a lot of people back. It's not going to be easy. It's a big challenge. But boy, to me, it's very inviting, and I think we're all kind of champing at the bit to get back, when it's all said and done."

Cowher spent 25 minutes yesterday speaking with Patriots coach Bill Belichick after posing for a photograph with other NFL coaches. It was not the first time Cowher spoke extensively with Belichick. He talked to the New England coach, who led the Patriots to three Super Bowls in four years prior to last season, in the days leading up to Super Bowl XL.

"We talked about his Super Bowl and what it was really like," Cowher said. "I was telling someone that I was probably coaching more desperate this year than before. I was more fearful of losing than I was questing to win. And you coach a little different that way, particularly in the Super Bowl. Having been there (in 1995), people don't realize that loss stings a lot more than any (conference) championship-game loss. We were talking about number of things. I have great respect of what they were able to do and have done."

"Hopefully we can emulate what (the Patriots) have done, because three in four years is not easy. We've done it once, and no one can take that way from you, but now the challenge is to maintain that same level." - Tribune Review
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