Invoice Cowher is aware of a factor or two on the subject of proving folks fallacious. An undersized faculty linebacker who went undrafted, Cowher battled and in the end earned a spot on the Browns‘ 53-man roster. Because the Steelers’ head coach, Cowher’s Steelers practically upset the Cowboys in Tremendous Bowl XXX as a 13.5-point underdog. A decade later, his crew made historical past by turning into the primary sixth seed to win the Tremendous Bowl.
The Corridor of Fame coach laughed when he was informed of Ben Roethlisberger’s “we do not have an opportunity” feedback main as much as Pittsburgh’s wild-card recreation in opposition to Kansas Metropolis. The sport is a rematch of the Chiefs‘ 36-10 win over the Steelers again in Week 16, an consequence that seemingly contributed to the Steelers’ being a 12.5-point underdog. Cowher, whose 2005 crew upset the Colts within the playoffs after dropping soundly in Indianapolis throughout the common season, feels that the Steelers are in a greater place having already performed the Chiefs this season.
“You play a crew a second time, there’s slightly familiarity with that,” Cowher mentioned this week. “I believe the familiarity actually advantages the crew that loses. It slows down slightly bit the extra you play a crew. That is why you see all these shut divisional video games as a result of they know one another so nicely. Taking part in a crew for a second time is like that divisional recreation.
“I count on this recreation to be quite a bit nearer.”
Cowher feels that Pittsburgh’s prior expertise on protection ought to assist them deal with the pace of the Chiefs’ offense, led by Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman. Whereas they’ve had their struggles this season (particularly in opposition to the run), Cowher pointed to the Steelers’ protection — particularly T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Joe Haden — as a motive why he expects a extra aggressive recreation. Cowher additionally alluded to the Steelers’ younger playmakers on offense, particularly rookies Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth. Harris ran for 93 yards in opposition to a Chiefs protection that completed thirty first within the NFL in common yards-per-carry allowed. Freiermuth was inactive for the sport as he was within the concussion protocol.
Cowher additionally acknowledged that Roethlisberger will “need to play his finest recreation” whereas avoiding pricey errors. Pittsburgh dedicated three turnovers of their first recreation in opposition to Kansas Metropolis. They didn’t pressure a turnover on protection after accumulating 4 of their upset win over the Titans the earlier week.
“They can’t flip the soccer over,” Cowher mentioned. “That’s the greatest factor, I believe, going into this recreation. Discover a method to maintain it shut going into the fourth quarter and unexpectedly, the stress now goes to Kansas Metropolis. And having among the best discipline purpose kickers within the league (Chris Boswell), among the best fourth quarter quarterbacks within the league. In the event that they get this recreation to the fourth quarter, they could have an opportunity.”
Steelers gamers, from Roethlisberger to Heyward to receiver Diontae Johnson, have embraced their position of heavy underdog throughout classes with the media. The strategy is much like the way in which Cowher dealt with related conditions throughout his 15 years because the Steelers’ coach.
“Each recreation once I coached, I attempted to make it private,” he mentioned. “You need to go to one thing the place you possibly can problem the gamers and make it private. There’s nothing extra, I’d say, nearly offensive as to be a double-digit underdog if you make the playoffs. Like, ‘Wow, you actually do not assume we’re that good, do you.’ That is very straightforward for Mike Tomlin to make this recreation private. I believe that is what Ben was alluding to. ‘OK, nobody is giving us an opportunity. So we do not actually have something to lose. So let’s go in there and have enjoyable and play this recreation.’
“The enjoyable half is having the ability to show folks fallacious. To do one thing nobody thinks you are able to do. There is not any best satisfaction in sports activities than doing one thing that nobody thinks you are able to do.”
In contrast to the 2005 crew, this Steelers crew doesn’t have a number of playoff expertise sans Roethlisberger and Heyward. Conversely, the Steelers’ opponent has a wealth of postseason expertise having performed within the final two Tremendous Bowls. That being mentioned, Cowher feels that the Steelers’ veteran leaders ought to be capable to get the message throughout to their youthful teammates about what it means to play and have success within the postseason.
“There is a totally different tempo to the sport that occurs if you get to playoff time,” Cowher mentioned. “All the things form of will get amplified up one notch. In the event you’ve been there earlier than, you perceive that and also you attempt to relay that to your teammates. The evening earlier than the sport, the fellows who’ve been there earlier than, who’ve been to championships and have gained a Tremendous Bowl, they’ll speak about what it takes within the playoffs to get there, as a result of everybody begins 0-0, and now’s the time that actual soccer begins.”