Steelers Coach Bill Cowher received the 'knock on the door' from Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker on Saturday night during the NFL on CBS pregame show ahead of the AFC Divisional Playoff game and learned that he is now a member of a Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020 as part of the Centennial Slate.
"I just said to 'V' (his wife Veronica), I have come to grips, I am okay if it doesn't happen," said Cowher. "I have been so blessed. To the eight candidates, every one of you deserve to be there. I have had some great players, some great coaches, the best organization in football. I have lived a blessed life. I have come to the best network on TV. It's a family here like it was a family we had there. To have to give back to something to the game of football that has been a part of my life. The virtues it teaches you, the morals you have the obligation to move on, the platforms we have. I am a blessed man.
"I don't think it's hit me yet. What can I say? I just think about the players. I think about the Pittsburgh franchise. Dan Rooney when he hired me. He took a chance on a 34-year old kid from Crafton, Pennsylvania. My first goal was not to get fired by my 20th high school class reunion."
Cowher became the 15th coach in Steelers history on Jan. 21, 1992 when he was hired to replace Chuck Noll as the second man to hold that job since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. Dan Rooney's search for Noll's successor came down to two finalists, but he selected Cowher over Dave Wannstedt, a decision that yielded immediate dividends.
"Congratulations to Bill Cowher on his election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame," said Steelers President Art Rooney II in a statement released on Saturday night. "One of our most successful coaches in team history, Bill's energy and dedication for coaching was evident in every practice and every game. His Pittsburgh roots were perfect for our organization because he knew the history and passion of our fans, and he wanted to bring a Super Bowl back to his hometown. He accomplished that feat in dramatic fashion in Super Bowl XL."
"Bill was always a family man and made the tough decision to walk away from coaching at a young age to focus on them. I am so happy for his entire family, and I'm sure this summer in Canton will be a special time for Bill and all of Steelers Nation."
In Cowher's rookie season as coach, he took what had been a talented team that finished a disappointing 7-9 in 1991 and turned it into an 11-5 AFC Central Division champion that entered those playoffs as the AFC's No. 1 seed. In Cowher's 15 seasons as coach, the Steelers won eight division titles, made the playoffs 10 times during which they participated in 21 playoff games. Those 21 playoff games included six appearances in AFC Championship Games and two trips to the Super Bowl, in which the Steelers were 1-1.
Cowher finished his career as one of only six coaches in NFL history with at least seven division titles, and he joined Paul Brown as the only coaches in history to take their teams to the playoffs in each of their first six years as coach.
Known for his fiery style, and of course the chin, Cowher brought energy and enthusiasm every time he was on the sidelines and was respected by those who played for him.
"Bill Cowher, he continually challenged me throughout my career," said Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis, a member of the Hall of Honor. "He is the guy that kept me going and always kept me motivated when things were up and down."
More about the Hall of Fame Class of 2020: A special Blue-Ribbon Panel met at the Hall of Fame in Canton this past Wednesday to elect the Centennial Slate. This is the first time any members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame were elected during a selection meeting held at the Hall in Canton.
The Centennial Slate includes 10 Seniors (players who last played more than 25 seasons ago), three Contributors (an individual other than a player or coach), and two Coaches (who last coached more than five seasons ago) and were voted on from a list of 38 Finalists. The Centennial Blue-Ribbon Panel carefully scrutinized nearly 300 nominees in the process.
The remainder of the 15-person Centennial Slate for the Class of 2020 will be revealed live on Good Morning Football next Wednesday, Jan. 15 beginning at 7 a.m. ET on NFL Network.
The Class of 2020 will consist of 20 members. An additional five members will be added to the Class of 2020 on "Selection Saturday," the day before Super Bowl LIV, when the Modern-Era Player Finalists are voted on by the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.