Cowher looking to quiet critics

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

Bill Cowher's daily route to work includes crossing something called the Hot Metal Bridge. Cowher can expect life to get much hotter should his Steelers lose to the New England Patriots in tonight's AFC Championship in Pittsburgh.

We're not suggesting his job is in jeopardy. The Rooney family is not about to fire a guy who just led their team to the first 15-1 record of any AFC team in history.

POCKETS OF PARANOIA

But the fact that the veteran Steelers coach is just 1-3 in AFC Championship games has spawned pockets of paranoia around town here, especially since all four of those games took place in Pittsburgh.

In no way are the nerves of Steelers fans as frayed as those who live a four-hour drive east along the Pennsylvania turnpike in Philadelphia, where the Eagles have lost three consecutive NFC championships heading into their matchup this afternoon against the Michael Vick-led Atlanta Falcons.

Nevertheless, the Steelers' ineffectiveness in these big games in the past decade has caused some locals to wonder: Does Cowher cower in these situations?

For Cowher, whose protruding jaw is even a bigger sports icon here than Mario Lemieux, it's a ludicrous question. Simply put, it was sloppy play that led to those three AFC Championship setbacks.

But would going an entire career without leading his team to a Super Bowl title tarnish his legacy when all is said and done?

"It would be difficult," Cowher said.

"Definitely it would create a void. But at the same time you can not forget the journey, and all the relationships you made along the way."

DIFFERENT STYLES

Cowher was asked about playing second fiddle in some media outlets to Pats coach Bill Belichick, considered by many to be the top football mind in the NFL today.

"I don't know if that's not for me to judge," he said. "I don't care. There are so many styles around the league. I just surround myself with good people and try to be me.

"In this case, that means running the ball and playing good defence."


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