In what will no doubt be a tremendous disappointment for Steelers fans, Hall of Fame coach Bill Cowher took a pass on discussing the so-called "Spygate" scandal in his newly-released book “Heart and Steel” written with our guy Michael Holley.
Why not? Well, that’s what longtime Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette wanted to know when he spoke to Cowher about the book.
Of the myriad groups and individuals who’ve cast themselves as having been victimized by the Patriots' use of video to decipher defensive signals, nobody’s been more aggrieved than Steelers fans. Not Arlen Specter. Not Marshall Faulk. Not Marty Hurney.
So it made sense for Bouchette to say, “What the hell?!” when he got to the end of the book with no incendiary “We wuz robbed!!” sentiment being shared.
Writing for The Athletic, Bouchette said:
“(Cowher) insists that New England knowing the Steelers’ defensive signals because of their previous illegal taping was not the reason the Patriots beat the Steelers in AFC Championship Games in the seasons of 2001 and 2004 at Heinz Field. He and Belichick have been friends back to when they were both assistant coaches and sharing information in the offseason on various strategies. The two still see one another on Nantucket Island, where Belichick has a place and while Cowher visits a friend there. Cowher did not want to point the finger at Belichick over Spygate.
“We go back pretty far,” Cowher said. “I have a lot of respect for him. He loves the game. We shared a lot of time together and time off the field, teaching each other about linebacker play and defensive backfield play. It came down to us being finalists for the 1991 Cleveland Browns job and he got the job and I didn’t. We went from friends to adversaries the next year because I found myself the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. As we competed against each other it was just a great competition.”
Cowher writes that he slipped a weighted plate in his pants when he was weighed at what now are called pro days at North Carolina State because he was underweight. He compared that “cheating” to what the Patriots did.
“It’s only cheating if you get caught,” he told me. “Like any player, if you’re going to hold him, don’t get caught. If you get caught you’re wrong, if you don’t you’re right. I always thought we never lost the games to New England because of Spygate. If he got the calls because we didn’t do a very good job of making sure we signaled those in, that’s on us, it’s not on him. Because we’re always looking for competitive edges. I think as any coach whether it’s someone’s stance, someone’s split, someone’s formation (that tips off a play). You’re looking at someone’s eyes, how are they coming out of a huddle? You’re always looking for those little things that give you a competitive edge and that to me is what that was.”
Of course, all those other things are legal in football; the NFL found the Patriots illegally taped teams’ signals previously and then paired them up with the plays for future use. Nevertheless …
“We didn’t lose the game because of that,” Cowher said. “We lost the game because they executed better than we did.”