COWHER'S ASSISTANTS IN 1992
It's interesting to note that 1992, the year that saw Bill Cowher join the Steelers, was also the year they hired Tom Donahoe as their Director of Football Operations. Tom Donahoe was given most of the credit, by some pundits, for those shrewd draft picks of that era.
Disaster was forecast for the Steelers when Donahoe left to join the Buffalo Bills in January 2001. During the period of Donahoe's tenure with the Bills, they tied for the fourth-worst record in the NFL at 31-49. He was responsible for several questionable personnel decisions and eventually relieved of his duties with the Bills at the beginning of 2006.
This is the article, including the preface regarding Donahoe, that I wrote in the UK newsletter in 1992 about the first of Cowher's choices for assistants :
"Before the new head coach was signed, Dan Rooney made a move that was just as significant as obtaining Bill Cowher's signature.
January 6th saw Tom Donahoe named as the Steelers' Director of Football Operations. The appointment was a major change in philosophy for Rooney, who has claimed all along that his team did not need a general manager.
Donahoe is almost that. He will continue to evaluate personnel and will be the point man in matters of player acquisition including trades, Plan B and waiver wire transactions.
Donahoe will also be the liaison between the coaching staff and the personnel department, which is expected to be a step towards drafting players who fit in better with the team's style. He should now solve the problem that the Steelers seem beset with when they use picks in the draft that they don't know how to use to their best ability.
Ron Erhardt from the New York Giants became the choice for the job of offensive coordinator. With the Giants for ten years, Erhardt had built an offense around a running attack that has won two Super Bowls.
“I think you have to be able to run the ball to win championships in the NFL," commented Cowher. "It's something Ron Erhardt's been able to do. He's also been able to take a quarterback like Phil Simms and develop him, and a guy like Mark Bavaro and develop him. He was the perfect person for the job."
With the head coach being defensively inclined, the role that Erhardt will be playing on offense is an important one. Vital enough for Bill Cowher to comment, "There's no question this will be Ron Erhardt's offense." Unlike the coach he is replacing, Erhardt saw success with the team he is leaving.
Dom Capers, the New Orleans Saints' defensive backs coach for the past six years, was named as the defensive coordinator. Aged forty-one, Capers is a native of Cambridge, Ohio and has been coaching for seventeen years.
He began his coaching career in 1975 at the University of Hawaii before moving to San Jose State (1975), California (1978-79), Tennessee (19BD-81) and then Ohio State (1982-83). Capers moved to the professional ranks as an assistant with the USFL Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars for two seasons, both of which ended with the Stars winning the USFL championship.
He then followed Stars' head coach Jim Mora to New Orleans in 1986. Under Capers the Saints defense ranked in the top five in interceptions in the NFL three times (1986, 1987 & 1991).
The Saints led the league with 29 interceptions last season in addition to ranking third with 50 sacks. The New Orleans defense was second only to Philadelphia in total defense.
Dick Hoak, the Steelers offensive backfield coach for the past twenty seasons was named as the new running back coach. Hoak will be extending his career with the Steelers to thirty-one seasons, which includes ten as a running back.
He is also the only present Steelers assistant to be retained by Cowher and it is widely believed he was asked by the Steelers to keep him.
Another former Steeler who will be coming back is Steve Furness, who will coach the defensive line. Furness played for the Steelers from 1972-1980, collecting four Super Bowl rings during his career. Last season he was coaching the defensive line for the Indianapolis Colts.
Pat Hodgson was named as the Steelers tight end coach, and became the fifth assistant coach hired by Bill Cowher. Hodgson is a veteran of twenty-one years of coaching that includes ten in the NFL.
His NFL career began as a free agent tight end with the Washington Redskins in 1966. He then spent the 1967 season playing for the Vikings before starting his coaching career in 1968 at the University of Georgia, his alma mater.
In 1978 he was named the San Diego Chargers' receivers coach before beginning a nine-year stay with the New York Giants in 1979 in the same role. While with the Giants, Hodgson worked with Ron Erhardt."
Dick LeBeau and Marvin Lewis were two assistants that I didn't write about in 1992, presumably because it was too late for the newsletter's deadline. They certainly deserve a mention now as they have played a major part in Bill Cowher's
In 2006, LeBeau began the third year of his second tour of duty with the Steelers as their defensive coordinator.
Spending six seasons in Pittsburgh from 1992-96, as the secondary (1992-94) and then defensive coordinator (1995-96), LeBeau returned to Cincinnati as the Bengals' assistant head coach/defensive coordinator (1997-2000). He was later promoted to head coach September 25, 2000, (after three games) and served in that capacity for two more seasons compiling a 12-37 record.
Considered the architect of the Steelers' famed "zone blitz," LeBeau was named the Steelers' defensive coordinator in January 2004, after spending the 2003 season with the Buffalo Bills.
His impact on the coaching staff was profound as the Steelers returned to the top of the NFL in total defense and rushing defense. 2005, LeBeau's defensive game plans played an integral part in stopping four of the NFL's top five offenses in the playoffs, including limiting Seattle to just 10 points in Super Bowl XL.
The 1992 media guide said this of LeBeau:
LeBeau spent his first 14 NFL seasons as a standout cornerback for the Detroit Lions. After being drafted by the Cleveland Browns on the fifth round in 1959 he was waived and signed with Detroit.
LeBeau played in 171 consecutive games for the Lions from 1959-72 and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1965, 1966, and 1967.
LeBeau's 62 career interception: which included a career-high nine to lead the NFC in 1970, ranked third in NFL history at the time of his retirement.
LeBeau retired following the 1972 season and began his coaching career as special teams coach for the Philadelphia Eagles (1973-75). He also served four seasons as defensive backs coach for the Green Bay Packers (1976-79) before taking the same position with Cincinnati in 1980.
In 1984 LeBeau was promoted to defensive coordinator, a position he held through the 1991 season, in addition to coaching the Bengals' defensive backs.
Marvin Lewis is a native of nearby McDonald, Pennsylvania. He returned to the Pittsburgh area in 1990 to coach the University of Pittsburgh outside linebackers for two seasons before joining the Steelers.
In 1981 Lewis began his coaching career at his alma mater, Idaho State, where he was linebackers coach from 1981-84. In Lewis' first season on the Idaho State staff, the team finished 12-1 and won the NCAA Division I-AA championship.
Lewis then coached the outside linebackers at Long Beach State for two seasons (1985-86), followed by three years at New Mexico (1987 89), where his duties were the inside linebackers in 1987 and 1988 and outside linebackers in 1989. He also served the dual role of recruiting coordinator his last two years at New Mexico before returning to Pittsburgh in 1990.
1993 saw Lewis get a well deserved job as the head coach of Cincinnati, where he is the only coach in their history not to have a losing season.
MY TRIBUTE TO BILL COWHER
WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT OUR BILL IN 1992