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NFL Classic Rewind: Steelers Send Cowher Out With Victory Over Bengals

Posted on December 01, 2011 by A.J. Foss

On January 21, 1992, 34-year-old Bill Cowher was hired as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers after serving for three seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Cowher had the difficult task of replacing legendary head coach Chuck Noll, who complied over 200 victories and four Super Bowl championships in his 23-year tenure in Pittsburgh.

But the first-time head coach led the Steelers to an 11-5 record in his first season and the AFC Central Division title, the first time Pittsburgh had won more than 10 games since 1983 and first division title since 1984.

Then in his fourth season, Cowher took the Steelers to their first Super Bowl in 16 years as he directed Pittsburgh to Super Bowl XXX, only to fall short of the NFL championship as the Steelers were defeated by the Dallas Cowboys by the score of 27-17.

After three more losses in the AFC Championship Game, Cowher and the Steelers returned to the Super Bowl in 2005 after winning three postseason games on the road to advance to Super Bowl XL where they faced off with the Seattle Seahawks.

Thanks to a 75-yard touchdown run and a 43-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Antawn Randle El to Hines Ward, the Steelers defeated Seattle 21-10 for the team’s first Vince Lombardi Trophy in 26 years and give Cowher the elusive Super Bowl title he had been seeking since he became the Pittsburgh head coach in 1992.

Some experts thought Cowher would join running back Jerome Bettis in retirement after the Steelers’ championship, but Cowher returned to Pittsburgh for his 15th season, in hopes of leading the Steelers to a second straight Super Bowl title.

But the Steelers got off to a rough start as they lost six of their first eight games of the season for a 2-6 record and though they would win five of the next six games, the Steelers would not return to the postseason as they were eliminated from playoff contention after a Week 16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Following the loss to the Ravens, rumors began to swirl that the Steelers finale against the Cincinnati Bengals would be the final game of Cowher’s career as the head coach in Pittsburgh.

The Bengals entered the game with an 8-7 record and needing a win over the Steelers to keep their playoff hopes alive.

With nothing to play for, the Steelers traveled to Cincinnati in hopes of knocking off their divisional rival out of the postseason.

Most of the game was a defensive struggle as both teams combined for more punts than points (11 and 10, respectively) through the first two and a half quarters of play.

The Steelers’ only score came at the end of a 15-play, 90-yard drive that took up over eight minutes off the clock and ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Willie Parker to put Pittsburgh ahead 7-0 with 11:01 left in the second quarter.

Later in the second quarter, the Bengals drove from their own 41-yard-line to the Steelers’ four-yard-line where they had a 1st-and-goal, only to have back-to-back false starts on the offensive line stall the drive and force a field goal attempt, which was made by Shayne Graham from 34 yards out to cut the Steelers’ lead to 7-3 right before halftime.

Bill Cowher was his usual intense self in what turned out to be his final game as the Steelers' head coach.

Then with 6:37 left in the third quarter, the Steelers offense put together their best drive of the game as they drove from their own one-yard-line to the Bengals’ nine-yard-line, thanks to the running of Parker and Najah Davenport, on a drive that extended into the early minutes of the fourth quarter.

But just when it looked the Steelers were about to punch into the end zone, Parker fumbled the ball after he was hit by Bengals linebacker Landon Johnson at the two-yard-line.

The ball bounced into the end zone where it was recovered by safety Dexter Jackson for a touchback and give the ball back to the Bengals at their 20-yard-line.

It only took three plays for the Bengals to convert the fumble into points as quarterback Carson Palmer fired a deep pass over the middle for Chris Henry, who made the catch and then sprinted in to the end zone for a 66-yard touchdown that gave Cincinnati its first lead of the game at 10-7 with 12:20 left in the fourth quarter.

Following the long touchdown pass, the Steelers drove 63 yards in eight plays, led by the passing of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who completed three passes for 49 yards, for the go-ahead touchdown as Parker scored on his second one-yard touchdown run to put Pittsburgh back on top, 14-10 with 7:27 remaining.

The Bengals responded with another touchdown drive, aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty on Steelers linebacker James Farrior and a pass interference on DeShea Townsend, as Palmer connected with Tony Stewart for a five-yard touchdown that put the Bengals back in the lead at 17-14 with 2:47 to go.

After all the defensive dominance in the first half, the game had turned into a track meet as both offenses were now going up and down the field in the fourth quarter.

The offensive fireworks continued on the Steelers’ ensuing possession as Roethlisberger hit Nate Washington for a 21-yard gain, then with rookie wide receiver Santino Holmes for 34 yards, and fullback Dan Krieder for 11, to have the Steelers at the Cincinnati’ 16-yard-line with a 1st-and-10 and almost 90 seconds left on the clock.

But almost like turning on a switch, the Bengals defense awoke as they stopped Parker for no gain and forced two incomplete passes from Roethlisberger, to force a field goal attempt from Jeff Reed.

Reed came on and calmly made the game-tying field goal from 35 yards out, to tie the game at 17 with 1:03 left in regulation.

After Glenn Holt returned the ensuing kickoff to the Cincinnati 33-yard-line, the Bengals had 55 seconds left to see if they could get into field goal range and try to win the game before the end of regulation.

Palmer got the Bengals in range when he completed another long pass for Henry, who made the catch for a 47-yard gain to the Steelers’ 20-yard-line.

Playing it safe, Palmer simply tried to put the ball in the center of the field to make Graham’s kick a little bit easier.

With 12 seconds remaining, Graham came on to try and kick the 39-yard field goal to keep the Bengals’ playoff hopes alive.

Santonio Holmes dives for the game-winning touchdown that knocked the Bengals out of playoff contention.

Cowher burned a timeout in hopes of icing Graham, which paid off for Cowher as the kick sailed wide right and no good.

Roethlisberger took a knee to run out the clock and the game went into overtime tied at 17.

The Steelers won the coin toss and elected to start the overtime period on offense, starting at their own 22-yard-line.

Parker ran for five yards on the first play of the drive, which was followed by a six-yard-run by Roethlisberger to give Pittsburgh a 1st down at their own 33-yard-line.

That is when Roethlisberger went back to the air, as he fired a quick slant pass for Holmes, who made the catch in stride, then ran past three Bengal defenders, and then dove in for the final few yards to complete the 67-yard touchdown to give Pittsburgh a 23-17 victory and eliminate the Bengals out of playoff contention.

The win was the 161st victory in Cowher’s career and would be his last as he resigned as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers on January 5th, 2007.

Cowher finished with a .617 winning percentage, eight division titles, two AFC championships and a Super Bowl title during his 15-year reign in Pittsburgh.

Following his resignation, Cowher went into broadcasting as he became a studio analyst for CBS’ The NFL Today.

Most experts believed that Cowher would return to coaching following a year or two, but he has remained at CBS for five years now and at this point, he is not planning to return to the NFL sidelines.

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