It’s been two years in the making, but I’m sure Pittsburgh Steelers fans will agree that it will be worth it the weekend that they watch a number of franchise greats don their gold jackets and step up to the podium to reveal that busts that will immortalize themselves as members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame this August.
Troy Polamalu was elected last year, and Donnie Shell and head coach Bill Cowher were included in the Centennial Slate honoring the NFL’s 100th anniversary, but the 2020 enshrinement ceremony was postponed due to the pandemic, so it will be held during the weekend of the 2021 enshrinement—which will include Alan Faneca—in what Cowher says will be a “very, very special weekend”.
“I’ve been able to enjoy this for a couple of years”, he told Jim Rome about the time passed since learning that he would be enshrined. “Being able to go in there with Donnie Shell and Troy Polamalu, and the next day it’ll be Alan Faneca going in, it’ll be very, very special, and very humbling”.
“It’s so humbling. I’ll never forget that Saturday night on the CBS set, when David Baker came out and told me that, it was almost surreal, and I remember coming home that night and it still didn’t hit me”, he added. It was a remarkable moment that was captured for eternity.
Cowher coached the Steelers for 15 years from 1992, taking over for Chuck Noll, through the 2006 season, succeeded by Mike Tomlin. He won 149 games, posting a .623 winning percentage, and going 12-9 in the postseason. His teams reached the Super Bowl twice, finally winning it in 2005, ultimately making six total appearances in the AFC Championship Game.
“Again, you don’t do it by yourself”, he would go on to say. “It’s collaboration of team and ownership and players and coaches and all the people that I was blessed to be able to work together with. I am just a small reflection of that by going into the Hall of Fame”.
It’s all the more remarkable that he has the opportunity to enter the Hall with two players he drafted and coached in Polamalu and Faneca, standing as a testament both to his own legacy and to the reality that legacies are built communally, rather than individually. But there is still the personal, even in the collective.
“It was only appropriately so that it was gold”, he said of the Hall of Fame jacket. “I said, here I am going in there with a gold jacket, being a Steeler, and it fit perfectly, so I sent it right back to them. Number 331 I am forever”.
Number 331 refers to the fact that he is officially the 331rd person to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Many, many men and women may have been a part of the journey that got him there, but there alone he stands in the ranks of the greats.