Bill Cowher was still digesting his team’s excruciating loss in the 1994 AFC Championship Game when he heard music coming from his house upon arriving home. While his oldest two daughters — Meagan and Lauren — had attended Pittsburgh’s 17-13 loss to the Chargers, his youngest daughter, Lindsay, watched that game at home.
“I’ve got one more daughter to console,” Cowher recalled in his new book, “Heart and Steel.” Cowher was met with a surprise upon walking inside the house.
“As I walked into the kitchen there was Lindsay, dressed in a hula skirt, dancing around the table,” Cowher wrote. “If she had tears, they were tears of joy.”
“Dad! Dad, we get to go to Hawaii!” Lindsay told her dad.
Cowher explained to his 4-year-old daughter that they wanted to go to the Super Bowl, which that year would be played in Miami.
“No, Daddy,” Lindsay responded. “We’ve already been to Florida. But we’ve never been to Hawaii!”
Back then, the losing coach of the conference title game would coach their conference in the Pro Bowl. In his first Pro Bowl as coach, Cowher led the AFC to a 41-13 victory over the NFC, the AFC’s largest margin of victory since the AFL-NFL merger. Cowher enjoyed a superb performance from then-rookie Marshall Faulk, who rushed for a Pro Bowl record 180 yards on just 13 carries.
While Cowher was able to finish the season on a positive note, his daughter provided him with something even bigger in the moments following what was his most devastating defeat.
“I’d talked to my players and their wives and girlfriends about perspective,” Cowher wrote, “but here was my 4-year-old daughter with the guiding light for this season, and others.”
Cowher and the Steelers rebounded from their bitter loss to the Chargers. A year later, Cowher became the youngest coach to lead a team to the Super Bowl after Pittsburgh outlasted the Colts in a thrilling AFC Championship Game.
A decade later, Cowher celebrated with his family on the field after winning his first Super Bowl as a head coach.
“As the clock ran down, I felt a rush of cold Gatorade over my head and shoulders,” Cowher recalled. “I was drenched and ecstatic. Then I saw my girls: Kaye, Meagan, Lauren and Lindsay. Our family was really, really close. Me and those girls. This was our small moment to share, surrounded by thousands and watched by millions. This was our bubble.
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“I told them this was their Super Bowl, too, and they were the most important people in my life. We won it girls. That’s what I told them. We endured. We persevered. We kept coming back.”
Cowher also shared a humorous moment between him and his father, Laird, right after Cowher had finished his first year as Steelers coach. Visiting his parents’ house in nearby Crafton, Pennsylvania, Cowher found himself discussing a familiar topic with his dad: Steelers football. But unlike years past, the man calling the shots for the Steelers was present at the kitchen table, a fact that may have been temporarily forgotten.
“And how about those stupid Steelers?” Laird Cowher told his son. “They have [Neil] O’Donnell out for a month, and they still put him in a playoff game! Why’d they do that?”
“What a second, Dad,” Bill Cowher responded. “You say, ‘the Steelers.’ That’s actually me. I made the decision, not ‘the Steelers.'”
“Oh,” his father said. “You probably had a good reason for the decision you made.”