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Cowher's surprisingly candid on camera

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2007

All fluff, no substance. You had to believe that's what CBS was getting when it hired ex-Steelers coach Bill Cowher.

If Cowher's analyses were going to be anything like his news conferences, we were in for a lot of fine-line-in-this-business remarks and not much else.

Certainly, he would shy away from ripping members of the NFL coaching fraternity.

Well, guess what• "The Jaw" is proving he isn't afraid to sink those suddenly and disturbingly white teeth of his (what happened there?) into some people.

That's exactly what he did during the "NFL Today" pre-game show Sunday, with host James Brown and former NFL stars Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason and Shannon Sharpe.

Cowher went deep early, ripping Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith (though not by name) for going conservative in a loss to Detroit.

"You got a situation where you want to find out about (tailback) Cedric Benson," Cowher said. "He's your workhouse, (you have a) new quarterback, so you'd think you'd run the ball• No. Twenty-seven passes, nine runs in the first half. I question that game plan."

Calling out a coach for his game plan• A critique can't get much stronger.

In the post-game show, Cowher criticized Atlanta coach Bobby Petrino (again, not by name) for pulling quarterback Joey Harrington against Tennessee.

Back on the pregame show, Cowher teed off on the San Diego Chargers, who'd lost to Kansas City a week earlier when LaDainian Tomlinson had gained 114 yards in the first half, but carried only six more times.

"They had a 10-point lead, and you're only going to give the ball to LT six times?" Cowher said. "You can't do that. You gotta finish games."

The Chargers subsequently ran a season-high 37 times in a blowout win at Denver.

At one point Sunday, Brown turned to Cowher for his take on a quote from Arizona quarterback Matt Leinart, who had been alternating with Kurt Warner in coach Ken Whisenhunt's system.

Brown read Leinart's quote -- "The team should ride or die with me" -- and said to Cowher, "Do you agree?"

Cowher looked straight into the camera and said, "Matt, be a team player. If you play better, he won't pull you. ... Matt needs to just worry about playing and let Whiz coach."

Does that sound like a man who's afraid to offend people?

The guess here is that Cowher's competitiveness kicked in after a slow start at the new job. He obviously doesn't want to be viewed as Mr. Milquetoast .

Before the season, Cowher picked the Steelers to finish third in the AFC North. It was duly noted in the locker room.

"It's kinda weird," receiver Hines Ward said. "He was the coach here, talking about us being a great team, and next thing you know, we're third in our own division."

Esiason and Marino gave Cowher grief when he was the only one to pick the banged-up Steelers to beat Seattle.

"My guys," Cowher said of the Steelers. "You back 'em into a corner, they respond. I talked to 'em last night."

Wait, Cowher talked to some players Saturday night• None of the veterans I spoke with Tuesday knew anything about it. Maybe he was kidding.

"I didn't talk to him, but I might call him this week and talk a little trash," linebacker James Farrior said. "I'll tell him I've seen him a few times and that he needs to pick it up. He's getting overpowered by the rest of the guys."

Actually, he's not.

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