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Steelers wise to wait on Cowher

| Friday, April 2, 2004

Bill Cowher controls all things Steelers, from the training-camp menu (he loves fried shrimp) to the NFL draft (count on a certain North Carolina State quarterback in the first round).

The Rooneys have given Cowher carte blanche to build his personal football kingdom -- but they apparently will not give him the contract extension that traditionally occurs with two years left on his deal.

It still could happen before next season, but not unless the sides start talking. That has usually happened by now. Cowher has two years left on his contract.

If the Rooneys do indeed make Cowher wait, it's a wise course of action.

Cowher's teams have made the playoffs two of the past three years but have missed four of the past six, including last season's 6-10 eyesore.

Last year's draft wasn't too pretty to look at, either, although it's premature to render final judgment.

If Cowher wins this season, it follows that he would be offered a new contract. If he loses again -- and it appears the AFC North is getting stronger as the Steelers flatline -- who knows?

In the meantime, you have to wonder how Cowher feels about the fact that he is slipping on the NFL earnings chart.

Two years ago, according to figures published in Steelers Digest, Cowher was the fourth-highest paid coach in the NFL with an average salary of $3.4 million.

His salary presumably has not changed much, and according to Sports Business Daily, he has dropped into a tie for 10th-highest paid coach.

Joe Gibbs ($5.7 million), Steve Mariucci ($5 million), Mike Holmgren ($4.5 million), Bill Parcells ($4.5 million) and Mike Shanahan ($4.1 million) rule the roost.

Maybe it has something to do with Super Bowl rings. Cast aside Mariucci, and those men have eight among them.

A look at Cowher's entire body of work reveals an impressive 122-85-1 record with eight playoff appearances in 12 years.

It shows some blemishes, too.

Cowher's playoff record is 7-8, including 1-3 in AFC Championship games, all on home turf. He has not produced a playoff upset -- he's 0-3 on the road -- and has been upset several times.

We don't need to tell you that he has not won a Super Bowl.

So, the Rooneys evidently will make Cowher wait -- and allow him to shape his fate. He continues to rule his kingdom defiantly.

Some would say blindly.

"Unfortunately, we didn't win (last season)," Cowher said this week, "but more questions were answered than raised."

Questions were answered, all right, and the answers remain the same.

Do the Steelers have a functional right tackle?

No.

Do they have a quarterback who can move?

No.

Do they have a feared pass rusher?

No.

Do they have shutdown cornerback?

No.

A most significant question remains unanswered.

How long for the Cowher Empire?

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