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A strong sendoff for Cowher

Posted Dec 14, 2016

A look back at a memorable win over the Cincinnati Bengals in 2006.

Steelers 23, Cincinnati Bengals 17
December 31, 2006
Paul Brown Stadium

It was the final game of the season, the last day of the year. But it was also the end of something more. It was Bill Cowher’s final game as the head coach of the Steelers.

While Cowher wouldn’t announce he was resigning until later that week, his players knew the potential existed and wanted to make sure he went out with a win.

 “I’m expecting him to make a decision that is good for him and his family,” said linebacker Joey Porter after the game. “He has been coaching for 15 years, and he is a legendary Hall of Fame coach. We definitely want him back for our selfish reasons. If he chooses to do otherwise, then we will understand. It is a stressful job to be a head coach. You miss a lot of things that you can’t do with your family when you dedicate yourself to football. I’m hoping he comes back, but if he doesn’t, I totally understand.

I’m just preparing myself for whatever he does. I just don’t want it to be a shock to myself, because everybody knows the feelings I have for him. At this point in time, he hasn’t shown us anything either way. I’ll know when you guys find out.”

If it was going to be the last game, it was going to be a long one as it took overtime for the Steelers to defeat the Bengals 23-17.

Running back Willie Parker got the Steelers on the board first with a one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, and Shane Graham closed the gap to 7-3 at halftime with his 34-yard field goal.

After a scoreless third quarter, things heated up. It looked like the Steelers were going to extend their lead when Parker fumbled at the two-yard line and the Bengals recovered in the end zone. The Bengals made the Steelers pay, when Carson Palmer hit Chris Henry for a 66-yard touchdown and a 10-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Parker bounced right back with his second one-yard touchdown run of the day for a 14-10 lead.

“I didn’t want him to keep his head down. He needed to keep his head up,” said Cowher. “Things like that happen. As much as we are going to be handing him the ball, that is going to happen. As a running back, you have got to have a short memory. He is a good back that is going to get better. That is what I wanted him to do, just to keep coming back and don’t dwell on it. I didn’t want him to change his running style. I didn’t want him to start running cautiously with two hands on the ball. He is not a fumbler; it was a wet day. I am not sure exactly what happened because I never saw a replay, but it happened. You have to move on.”

The back and forth continued when the Bengals went on top 17-14 with 2:47 remaining in the game. The Steelers wouldn’t be denied, tying it at 17-17 on a 35-yard field goal by Jeff Reed with 1:03 to play.

The Steelers got new life when Graham’s 39-yard field goal went wide right with just eight ticks left on the clock, forcing the game into overtime.

It didn’t take long for the Steelers to ensure Cowher’s final game would be a victory. The Steelers went to the ground on their first two plays of overtime, but then Ben Roethlisberger hit Santonio Holmes on a slant pass and he took it for a 67-yard touchdown and a 23-17 win.

After the game, the first question Cowher was asked was about his future.

“I really don’t know,” said Cowher. “I am going to talk to some different people over the next few days. I need to take some time to reflect. I don’t want to make any decisions in the heat of the moment that are emotionally based. That is what I am going to do. I don’t want to go into any further details. I don’t want to answer any more questions about that.”

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Listen to the original radio broadcast of this game. Steelers Time Machine debuts on SNR each Wednesday at 1 p.m. Click here for more information