PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher signed a two-year contract extension Monday
-- the second time since 2001 he has agreed to a new deal after his team missed the playoffs the preceding season.
The extension, which carries through the 2007 season, is expected to keep Cowher's salary competitive with those of the game's highest-paid head coaches. Cowher's current deal pays him $3 million per season, and team president Art Rooney
II said the coach was given a raise in his new contract.
Cowher agreed to his current contract, which runs through the
2005 season, after the Steelers rebounded from consecutive losing
seasons by going 9-7 in 2000 but still missed the playoffs.
The 47-year-old Cowher has a 115-76-1 record in 12 seasons, with
only three losing seasons. His seven division titles are the fifth
most in NFL coaching history, and the Steelers have reached the
playoffs 12 times under Cowher despite missing them four of the
last six seasons.
"I can't think of a better job," said Cowher, a Pittsburgh
native. "To me, it's not about the market or the money, to me it's
about winning. ... I never could have imagined coaching another
Under Cowher, the Steelers have played in the Super Bowl once and appeared in
four AFC title games, but the franchise has not won an
NFL title since the fourth and last of their Super Bowl wins under
former coach Chuck Noll during the 1979 season.
"He's at the point where he's made enough money, he's raising
his family, he's been successful, and there's only one thing left
to do and we feel he can do it here, and that's win a
championship," Rooney said. "That's what it
comes down to: Do you believe your coach can win a championship for
Cowher called not winning the Super Bowl "the void" in his
career he is trying to fill.
"It's about doing what I was brought here to do 12 years ago,
for one of the classiest owners in the league [Dan Rooney], if not
the classiest owner in the league, and that's what drives me and will
continue to drive me," Cowher said.
Cowher has traditionally signed extensions with two years
remaining on his contract, and did so again this year. The Steelers
begin training camp Friday, and both sides sought to get a deal
done before then to avoid distractions. In the past, the team usually has
not negotiated contracts once a season begins.
Cowher has the most seniority of any active NFL coach, and only
eight coaches have coached one team longer than Cowher has --
including Noll, who coached the Steelers from 1969 to 1991. Cowher's 122 career victories, counting postseason
wins, are second in team history to Noll's 209.
"We have a system where the players come and go, and the best
way to deal with that is have coaching stability," Rooney said. "We think their record has proven that's a
pretty good way to go about it."
While the Steelers change coaches less frequently than any other
team in major pro sports -- they have had only two coaches in 35
years -- Cowher goes into this season following yet another
realignment of his coaching staff.
The Steelers fired defensive coordinator Tim Lewis after last
season and brought back Dick LeBeau, who previously held the job in
the mid 1990s. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey also left to
become the Bills' coach and was replaced by Ken Whisenhunt,
formerly an offensive assistant. Offensive line coach Russ Grimm
also added the title of assistant head coach.
Information from ESPN.com senior writer Len Pasquarelli and The Associated Press was used in this report.