PITTSBURGH -- Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher is returning to the NFL -- as an analyst on CBS' Sunday "The NFL Today" studio show.
"I didn't get out of [coaching] to get back into it. This is my next challenge and I'm planning to work hard at it."
-- Bill Cowher
Cowher resigned as the Steelers' coach last month following 15 seasons and less than a year after winning the Super Bowl. He plans to spend more time with his family at their new home in Raleigh, N.C., but said working on the CBS show allows him to keep his ties to the league.
"I can still be part of it but not have it consume your life," Cowher said Thursday, speaking on a conference call.
Cowher sent mixed signals as to how long he plans to stay away from coaching.
Initially, he said, "It's an opportunity to stay busy on Sundays and it may go beyond this year." Later in the call, he said, "I'm planning on doing this for a couple of years."
However, he would not officially commit to appearing beyond one season, saying, "It's an opportunity to remain a part of the NFL, and it may go a lot longer than that."
Cowher doesn't expect to have any problems critiquing or criticizing his former team, saying it would be no different from doing so along the sideline.
"I'd be doing it if I were coaching," he said. "Willie Parker is a good running back but if [he fumbles], he knows he would be standing next to me on the sideline."
Some coaches have found it difficult to criticize former colleagues and players once they became broadcasters, but Cowher said he plans only to give his opinion without being judgmental.
"I'll just be giving an opinion," he said. "I'll just be saying that I would have done."
CBS is adding Cowher to the show without any of the other analysts leaving -- Dan Marino, Shannon Sharpe and Boomer Esiason will return, as will host James Brown and former NFL general manager Charlie Casserly.
"It will be like a bye week every week," Cowher said of working Sundays in a studio rather than in a stadium. He will commute each weekend from Raleigh to New York.
As the NFL's most desirable coaching free agent, Cowher understands he will be subjected to season-long rumors tying him to this job or that job. He has insisted that money wasn't an issue in him leaving the Steelers, but it is believed to have played a major role.
It is likely he could land an offer in the $8 million a year range or more should he want to get back into coaching next year, or about twice as much as he was making in Pittsburgh. He is expected to attract considerable interest because he remains relatively young for an NFL head coach -- he doesn't turn 50 until May.
"But I didn't get out of it to get back into it," Cowher said. "This is my next challenge and I'm planning to work hard at it."
Once Cowher left the Steelers on Jan. 5, his agents contacted the networks that carry NFL games to gauge their interest in hiring him. Cowher felt it was a natural transition to sign with CBS, which carries AFC games, and he had a tryout of sorts with the network during its Super Bowl telecast on Feb. 4.
Cowher's hiring creates the possibility that he and former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, who was close to Cowher as a player, will offer differing opinions on different networks.
Bettis works for NBC and on his first telecast last summer said he was convinced Cowher would leave Pittsburgh after the season ended -- a prediction that proved accurate.
Cowher also said he is disappointed with the San Diego Chargers' firing of coach Marty Schottenheimer, his friend and mentor. Cowher was Schottenheimer's defensive coordinator in Kansas City before his 1992 hiring by Pittsburgh.
"It was unfortunate ... the timing [was bad] for both parties because all the other jobs are filled and Marty won't have the opportunity to oach next year," Cowher said. "But it does mean I've gained a golfing partner this spring."
Cowher's 161-99-1 record ranked him fourth among active coaches last season in career wins. He won a Super Bowl in February 2006 after six trips to the AFC Championship Game and 10 playoff appearances with the Steelers. They missed the playoffs after going 8-8 in his final season with them.