Rooney always liked Cowher's 'Pittsburgh attitude'

If you were among those who were surprised on Saturday evening when former Steelers Coach Bill Cowher learned that he was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame live during the NFL Today pregame show on CBS, you weren't alone.

Steelers President Art Rooney II was also surprised the announcement came on live television. So surprised that he missed the announcement.

"I was definitely surprised by the way they decided to do it," said Rooney during an interview with Stan Savran on SNR on Monday. "I went out and took a walk between games and I got this call from (Steelers Director of Communications) Burt Lauten and he said, 'Are you watching this?' I said, 'What.' He said they just told Cowher he got into the Hall of Fame on television.

"We did not know that was coming. I had a good idea he had a pretty good chance. I had a call from Coach (Dick) LeBeau last week, and Dick is on the Blue-Ribbon panel that met in Canton last week and voted on everybody. He felt like things went well in the discussion for Bill. I thought there was a chance."

Cowher is part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Centennial Slate for the Class of 2020, a larger group that is being selected because of the NFL's 100th season. The class will be comprised of 10 Seniors, three contributors and two coaches, as well as the group of five Modern Era members.

"They selected a larger group to be consisted for this year because of the 100th season and put together a larger Blue-Ribbon panel to vote on this class," said Rooney. "It's a different process than what they will use for the normal group (Modern Era finalists) that will be voted on Super Bowl weekend."

Rooney said he has exchanged text messages with Cowher since learning the news but hadn't spoken with him yet. He said he knows how excited Cowher is to be a part of the Steelers' Hall of Fame legacy that now has 25 members of the organization as a part of the unique fraternity.

Cowher became the 15th coach in Steelers history on Jan. 22, 1992 when he was hired to replace Chuck Noll as the second man to hold that job since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

Cowher was a Pittsburgh guy, having grown up in Crafton, Pa., and he was getting to live his dream of coaching his hometown team. But even though he was a hometown kid, that wasn't the reason he was hired to take over as the team's head coach.

"In fairness you have to approach those things without saying we are going to hire a hometown guy. That doesn't happen very often, and you are careful not to allow that to sway you," said Rooney. "In Bill's case, part of his makeup, part of what he brought to the table, was that attitude. I think there is no other way to describe it but a Pittsburgh attitude. In this case that was clearly an asset we saw in him.

"There is no doubt Bill has that kind of passion. He has a great passion for the game of football. The fact that he grew up in Pittsburgh and was a Pittsburgh guy, he brought that kind of Pittsburgh feel to the team. There was a toughness that he brought and determination he brought. It really was one of those things that I think he certainly was the right guy at the right time for us and obviously it worked out pretty well."

Other highlights from what Art Rooney II said:

On Troy Polamalu's chances of being selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility:
"You hear things that sound positive. We have been hearing mostly positive things. I would like to think if Ed Reed got in on his first year of eligibility, Troy would follow suit. A lot of people are saying that. You never know. We are keeping our fingers crossed for Troy and Alan (Faneca). I think Troy is a first ballot Hall of Famer, so we are praying and keeping our fingers and toes crossed here."

On if the number of Steelers in and being considered for Hall of Fame could hurt Faneca:
"I do think that gets factored in. Voters decide there are enough Steelers in and that has hurt Donnie Shell. That is why I am glad he has the chance to go in through the Centennial process this year. It is there. I am sure most voters would say it doesn't matter. But I do think it is there. People look at how many Steelers are going in. We are hoping for the best and hope that isn't a factor.

"Alan deserves to be in there when you compare him to other people who are already in. He clearly belongs. I do think he will get in eventually. You never know whether the number of Steelers going in is going to be a factor going in or not."

On if the number of Steelers from the 1970s hurts Donnie Shell and if this is a better avenue to get him inducted:
"The number of Steelers from the 70s who are in have hurt Donnie's chances. I am glad the NFL came up with this special process this year. It's almost like a makeup class for guys. This is recognizing there are more guys that are deserving of being in there than are in. I think it's great. We are keeping our fingers crossed that Donnie is going to get in there. I talked to Coach LeBeau last week and he was in the room and he felt like the discussion for Donnie and Bill Cowher went well and he felt like good about it. Hopefully we will get good news here again on Wednesday with Donnie going in."

On if he thinks Steelers will play in the Hall of Fame game:
"I think there is a pretty good chance we will be playing in the Hall of Fame game this year. It's not something the coaches and players love to see having an extra preseason game. I think it will be a fun weekend in Canton if things go the way we hope they go the next few days and weeks.

"(There is) nothing firm yet. We have been given indications that we should be probably planning on it. It's not official yet, but I think it's more than likely."

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