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Former Steelers WR1 Hines Ward Shares The Amazing Continuity In Philosophy Between Bill Cowher And Mike Tomlin

Philip G. Pavely / USA Today Sports

Former Steelers WR1 Hines Ward Shares The Amazing Continuity In Philosophy Between Bill Cowher And Mike Tomlin

Former Pittsburgh Steelers WR Hines Ward appeared on ESPN’s staple SportsCenter program Monday morning to promote the XFL. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who now owns the former WWE property, chose Ward and another former Steelers great, Rod Woodson as two of the eight coaches who will lead the relaunched league in the spring. The Steelers WR was asked by Jay Harris about his thoughts on getting a head coaching opportunity after his time with the New York Jets and FAU:

“I have been blessed to be able to play in a great organization for 14 years in Pittsburgh and blessed to have two great outstanding head coaches in coach Bill Cowher and coach Mike Tomlin. So, I have seen a lot of success, I know what it looks like. I can tell you one thing; both of those guys were great leaders of men, and you found a way to get the most out of your players. So, I hopefully I can follow in those two guys footsteps.”

Ward may be one of the toughest Steelers players of all-time and he is certainly the most physical wide receiver in league history. It is interesting that despite being asked about his coaching experience, that he immediately gave credit to Pittsburgh and his former head coaches. Harris then asked Ward to expand on what he applies to his coaching from the two Pittsburgh head men:

Steelers Bill Cowher

In this Dec. 12, 2004, photo, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher greets Jerome Bettis, who had scored a touchdown against the New York Jets during an NFL football game in Pittsburgh. Former Steelers coach Cowher was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in a surprise announcement Saturday night, Jan. 11, 2020, before the Tennessee Titans-Baltimore Ravens AFC divisional round playoff game. (Peter Diana/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

“Well, Coach Cowher is very intense. Disregard the spitting that comes out of his mouth. He is intense. You won’t see me doing any of that. Coach Cowher got the most out of his players, he taught toughness. He would try to build his team on special teams because he played special teams. I think for a lot of these players, that is the fastest way that is going to expedite your trip to the next level through special teams.”


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Ward played for Cowher for nine seasons and certainly learned the toughness lessons that Cowher taught. His early dedication to stressing special teams really demonstrates his commitment to his players achieving their goals. The XFL is a second and sometimes last chance for players who cannot catch on to a practice squad to show their worth. The spring football league that establishes itself as a viable NFL pipeline first will be the one who survives long-term.

“Mike Tomlin, he always taught the mental toughness,” Ward continues. “To be able to be singularly focused on the task, not making any excuse. Just going out and trying to find tough football players. The guys who love football but smart, physical football players.”

Tomlin coached Ward for the last five seasons of his career and Ward transitioned from a Super Bowl XL MVP and number one option to a veteran who had to cede his playing time to Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, but still was an important voice in the locker room. The tremendous respect he has for the organization and the two leaders he played for is apparent.

Harris asked Ward what he would be looking for during the XFL showcase and he shared:

“Of course, you have all the measurables, I’m looking for guys that love to compete. The guys who get jacked up when they make a play, the guys who are running around from one drill to the other. Leaders, the guys they want to step up in the front of the line and show what they can do. That is who I want to surround myself with on the football team. A bunch of guys who love football and want to compete.”

It sounds like Ward will be looking for versions of himself in the players he is evaluating. He started out as a college quarterback and worked his way into becoming the Steelers all-time leader in receptions. His statements about Cowher and Tomlin reflect a continuity of philosophy in the Steelers organization that has lasted for decades. He may have been the epitome of the Steelers mindset that Chuck Noll envisioned, Joe Greene instilled, and Cowher and Tomlin nurtured.

Ward even more than Ben Roethlisberger, who has been the face of the Steelers for nearly the entire 21st century, embodies the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is hard to describe what a real Steeler looks like, but you know it when you see it. Cam Heyward is carrying the torch presently, but if you had to show one picture to explain to someone from Mars what a Pittsburgh Steeler looked like, it might well be Hines Ward.

Steelers Hines Ward

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What do you think, Steeler Nation? Is Ward’s smile the first thing you think of when the Steelers are mentioned? Please comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.

I have been rooting for the Steelers actively since 1975. I love the Black and Gold and support them through thick and thin. I am a Navy Veteran, living in Jacksonville, FL and never miss a chance to go to the neutral site games here in Jacksonville. I am new to the Steeler Nation website, but I love discussing Steelers Past, Present and Future.

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  1. Pingback: Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher Shares The True Story Of This Mind-Blowing Decision During 1992 That Nearly Sabotaged His First Season - SteelerNation.com

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