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Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher Shares The True Story Of This Mind-Blowing Decision During 1992 That Nearly Sabotaged His First Season

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Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher Shares The True Story Of This Mind-Blowing Decision During 1992 That Nearly Sabotaged His First Season

As a head coach in the National Football League, you’re bound to have both hits and misses throughout your tenure as a play-caller. For former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bill Cowher, the first-year head coach back in 1992 saw his first “hit” in his very first game with the black and gold. This propelled Cowher with confidence moving forward, and the belief that his players would begin to buy in to what he was trying to accomplish with the franchise.

Who would’ve thought it all would be sparked by a designed fake punt call.

“If people only knew the real story of that fake punt…” Cowher wrote.

Steelers Bill Cowher

In his book entitled Heart and Steel, the Crafton, PA raised Super Bowl Champion coach revealed that his very first win with the Steelers enabled him to begin earning the trust of the team. On September 6, 1992, the Steelers traveled to the Houston Astrodome to take on the Houston Oilers in the season opener, and this is where his story would unfold.

“My first game as a head coach was in Houston against my old nemesis, Warren Moon. The same Warren Moon who, two years earlier in Kansas City, made me wonder if I was about to get fired. He was a Pro Bowl quarterback, and the Oilers had won our division in 1991. In the ’92 opener, they were favored to beat us. They appeared to be well on their way early as they jumped out to a 14-0 lead,” Cowher explained.

Steelers Warren Moon

(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)

“I’d learned my lesson from Kansas City, so I decided I had to shake things up. I knew that the Oilers liked to put pressure on the punter, so I told John Guy, our special teams coach, ‘First punt we get, if we’re inside the 50, they’re going to be coming after us. Let’s run a fake punt.’

‘But don’t make it conspicuous.'”

The Steelers end up taking a 14-yard sack on third down from the Oilers’ 42-yard line, so they were no longer inside 50. The fake punt was supposed to be called off. Cowher would then get on the phone with Ron Erhardt, the Steelers offensive coordinator at the time, to voice his complaints of the offensive line’s protection on then quarterback, Neil O’Donnell. As Cowher was talking to Erhardt, he noticed a rather large grin on the face of Guy. Cowher would drop the phone.

“John, tell me you didn’t call the fake punt,” Cowher questioned nervously.

“You told me to. You said the first time we punt,” Guy explained.

“I said inside the 50! But we’re not over the 50-yard line,” Cowher responded back.

“Yeah, but I had to tell Mark [Royals, the Steelers punter], before the third down snap so it wouldn’t be ‘conspicuous,'” Guy elaborated.

Before Cowher could call a timeout, the ball was already snapped and he thought the worst. But to his surprise, the Oilers pressured Royals as expected and former running back, Warren Williams caught the pass right up the middle who then took the ball all the way down to the two-yard line. The play worked beautifully, and the Steelers would score later that drive.

The Steelers would end up winning the game 29-24, and the rest was history.

Steelers Bill Cowher

DETROIT – FEBRUARY 05: Head coach Bill Cowher of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Tropy after defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL at Ford Field on February 5, 2006 in Detroit, Michigan.The Steelers defeated the Seahawks 21-10. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Cowher would go on to claim that there was excitement to begin the season throughout the organization, especially among the players. There was enthusiasm about what they were doing, and how they were doing it.


Check out the highlights of the game here!


So what do yinz think of Cowher’s gutsy call (that almost didn’t happen)? Could that have been the initial key moment that sparked Cowher’s legendary run in Pittsburgh? Click to comment below!




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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Lin Sunseri

    August 5, 2022 at 7:42 am

    Bill Cowher was an absolute GIANT of a coach and will be remembered as among the very best coaches ever!

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