From Bryan DeArdo, CBS Sports:
Bill Cowher says he received over 600 congratulatory text messages shortly after receiving his Hall of Fame announcement during an NFL broadcast on Jan. 11, 2019. At about 7:50 p.m. ET, Cowher — a member of CBS Sports’ NFL coverage since 2007 — was greeted by Hall of Fame president David Baker, who informed Cowher that he would be part of the Hall of Fame’s centennial class.
At 7:51 p.m., Cowher received his first congratulatory text message. The sender? Ben Roethlisberger, Cowher’s quarterback during his final three years as coach of the Steelers.
“Congratulations, Coach. I’m so happy for you,” Roethlisberger said in the text, according to Cowher in his new book, “Heart and Steel.”
“Through the years, he’d sent multiple messages saying he wished he’d played for me later in his career,” Cowher wrote of Roethlisberger. “He says he would have appreciated me more than he did in the first few years. I only coached him for three seasons. He’s had a tremendous career, and Mike Tomlin’s done a great job with him.”
In his book, Cowher detailed what it was like coaching Roethlisberger during his record-setting rookie season. After meeting with him several times before the draft, Cowher and Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert decided that, while they wouldn’t trade up to select him, Roethlisberger wouldn’t get past them if he was still on the board with the 11th overall pick. Roethlisberger ultimately was, and the Steelers made a decision that would impact the franchise for the next two decades.
Roethlisberger’s immense talent was apparent during his first summer in Pittsburgh.
“Ben could make something positive out of a broken play, which nobody can teach,” Cowher wrote. “He also had that big ego on the field that great quarterbacks have. He just didn’t know enough to be hesitant. And that competitiveness, which Kevin Colbert and I’d noticed early, shone. When a play broke down, he improvised, he took chances, he did unconventional things to make something good out of something bad.
“With some quarterbacks, a broken-down play is their opportunity to extend it, not lose yardage. But Ben was all about turning it into a plus-yardage play. Right away I could see our challenge would be to make him work within our system while not taking the special ability out of his game. With a player such as him, a real danger is that you can overcoach him into mediocrity.”
Cowher is one of four members of the 2005 Steelers who have received Hall of Fame induction. Jerome Bettis was enshrined in 2015, and Troy Polamalu and Alan Faneca will be inducted (along with Cowher) this summer. And while he will eventually join his former teammates and coach in Canton, Ohio, Roethlisberger is still donning a Steelers uniform as he looks to end his career similarly to how he started it.
“I knew we had obviously a great defense and some amazing weapons on offense,” Roethlisberger recently said when asked about his decision to return for an 18th season. “I wanted to come back to be a part of what I think is a special football team that everyone is overlooking, which I think is kind of cool.”
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