Cowher denies retirement rumors, Bettis' comments

Updated: August 15, 2006, 11:59 AM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Bill Cowher is unhappy former Steelers star Jerome Bettis predicted on national TV this might be his final season as Pittsburgh's coach.

Wojciechowski's take
Wojciechowski
When he finally does step away, the Steelers should do something to recognize the coach with the league's longest tenure -- which is going on an amazing 15 years in a cutthroat business.

• For more of Wojciechowski's analysis, Click here.

Cowher said Monday that Bettis spoke with no inside information.

Bettis became an NBC-TV analyst after retiring as the NFL's No. 5 career rusher in the minutes following the Steelers' 21-10 victory over Seattle in the Super Bowl. During his network debut Sunday night, Bettis predicted Cowher's 15th season as the Steelers' coach might be his last now that the team has won a title.

"I really think this is the last year for coach Cowher in Pittsburgh," Bettis said. "I talked to him after the season was over and I really think he was really a different coach, a different guy."

Cowher said the two talked in March and haven't talked since, except in passing, and that Bettis might not feel that way today.

"I talked to Jerome about it and I was very disappointed in what he said, and he understands my position," Cowher said Monday. "I want to make sure he understood it, because I think a lot of people thought him and I have been speaking, and we haven't been speaking. That was one conversation we had and nothing confidential was given to him."

"There's been a lot of speculation about my future, but I'm here to say once again that it's purely that -- speculation. I don't like talking about the contract because we're in camp. I love coaching football, I love coaching here and there's been a lot of speculation, and I'm going to leave it at that. "
Steelers coach Bill Cowher

Cowher is signed through 2007, but this is the first time since the Steelers hired him in 1992 that he will go into a season with so few years remaining on his contract.

Cowher said before training camp began he has been, in his mind, on a year-to-year basis since the Steelers went 6-10 in 2003, even though they were 15-1 in 2004 and 11-5 last year before winning the Super Bowl.

"He [Bettis] has to understand, like anything, this has been a long year -- and it was last year -- but as you get closer to training camp, time has a way of refocusing people," Cowher said.

Adding to the speculation about Cowher's future is his recent purchase of a $2.5 million luxury home in Raleigh, N.C., where he and wife Kaye attended North Carolina State. Kaye Cowher and the couple's youngest daughter apparently plan to live there this season, the first time Cowher has been separated from his family during a season.

"There's been a lot of speculation about my future, but I'm here to say once again that it's purely that -- speculation," Cowher said. "I don't like talking about the contract because we're in camp. I love coaching football, I love coaching here and there's been a lot of speculation, and I'm going to leave it at that."

Cowher said he won't discuss the contract issue again. He and the Steelers apparently have decided there will be no more contract discussions until the season ends.

"I can't control the future -- again, that takes two sides, but I do have two years left on my contract, contrary to what some people think," he said. "And that's all I want to talk about it. I've been very focused on getting this football team back this year, and that's where my focus is. I don't like talking about anything other than that, anything personal, because really it's about our football team. Contract situations and all those other things, they take care of themselves."

Despite not liking what Bettis said, Cowher said it won't affect their relationship.

"Jerome's a good guy, and we've had too many good times to let something like that stand in the way," Cowher said. "That will not come between us, trust me."

Meanwhile, wide receiver Hines Ward was on the field for part of the Steelers' only practice Monday after being out for more than a week with a sore hamstring, but he appeared to be in some discomfort by the end of practice. Ward doesn't think the injury is an issue because there are more than three weeks remaining before the Steelers' opener.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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