Cowher’s Last Bow?

The longtime head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers will reportedly consider leaving his job after 15 seasons, the longest current tenure in the NFL. If he has coached his last game for the Steelers, he made it count by knocking division rival Cincinatti out of the playoffs in a thrilling overtime win:

Joey Porter tried to end the suspense and get an answer for the question that all of Pittsburgh is asking. A few minutes after the Steelers knocked the Cincinnati Bengals out of playoff contention with a 23-17 victory in overtime Sunday, the emotional linebacker cornered his head coach — the one he kissed after a victory early in the season — and asked if he was staying.
“Today was the first time anybody put him on the spot,” Porter said. “I asked him. He said he doesn’t know. We love the guy regardless.” …
While the Steelers waited for an answer, the Bengals (8-8) were already deep into hindsight about a season gone horribly wrong.
They were first in line for a wild-card playoff berth with three weeks , but wound up shut out of the playoffs by an 0-3 finish. A week ago in Denver, a bad snap on an extra-point attempt with 46 seconds to play prevented them from clinching a spot.
There were more mistakes galore against the Steelers (8-8), who beat them in the playoffs last season. Shayne Graham was wide right on a 39-yard field goal try with 8 seconds left in regulation.
On the third play in overtime, Ben Roethlisberger threw a pass to Santonio Holmes, who eluded three defenders and dived the final few yards into the end zone, completing a 67-yard touchdown play.

Nothing could be sweeter than going on the road against division rivals and taking away their playoff hopes, especially after having lost an earlier game against the Bengals and finishing out of the running. The defending Super Bowl champs will not get a chance to defend their championship this year, which would make a Cowher exit bittersweet. Cowher won the one last season and had the Steelers close on several occasions, including a tough loss to the Dallas Cowboys a few years back.
The Bengals really knocked themselves out of the playoffs. They had the Steelers reeling from a beating by Baltimore which ended their own thin playoff hopes, they had the home-field advantage, and most of all the Bengals had the game-winning field goal opportunity at the end of the game. Champions make the most of those opportunities, and the Bengals showed that they have not yet risen to that level.
Will Cowher really leave his job? Even he says he’s not burned out and would like to coach again, but he has helmed the Steelers for a very long time now. Given the demands of the job, it’s natural that he might want a sabbatical of a year, maybe two, to connect with his family and recharge the batteries. He would likely get a plum analyst position with one of the networks; he’s articulate and colorful. However, the Steelers will probably try like hell to keep him on the field. They have consistently backed Cowher even after some tough seasons, and an organization with only two head coaches in 35 years obviously values loyalty.
I’m hoping Bill sticks around. I can’t think of a coach and a team that fit each other better than Cowher and the Steelers.