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Former Steelers head coach and Hall of Famer Bill Cowher recently had a one-on-one interview with Ed Bouchette of The Athletic about his new memoir Heart and Steel, which came out today, and Bouchette revealed that Cowher didn't mention Spygate at all in his new book.
If it wasn't for Spygate and the Steelers' losses to the Patriots in the 2001 and 2004 AFC Championship Games, Cowher could have had two more Super Bowl appearances and would have had the opportunity to win more than just one Super Bowl.
“It’s only cheating if you get caught,” Cowher told Bouchette. “Like any player, if you’re going to hold him, don’t get caught. If you get caught you’re wrong, if you don’t you’re right. I always thought we never lost the games to New England because of Spygate. If [Belichick] got the [defensive] calls because we didn’t do a very good job of making sure we signaled those in, that’s on us, it’s not on him. Because we’re always looking for competitive edges. I think as any coach whether it’s someone’s stance, someone’s split, someone’s formation [that tips off a play]. You’re looking at someone’s eyes, how are they coming out of a huddle? You’re always looking for those little things that give you a competitive edge and that to me is what that was.”
Cowher doesn't believe they lost either AFC Championship Game to New England because of Spygate.
“We didn’t lose the game because of that,” Cowher said. “We lost the game because they executed better than we did.”
Bouchette mentioned in his article that Cowher and Belichick have been good friends for decades and the two still see one another on Nantucket Island, where Belichick has a place and while Cowher visits a friend there.
“We go back pretty far,” Cowher said. “I have a lot of respect for him. He loves the game. We shared a lot of time together and time off the field, teaching each other about linebacker play and defensive backfield play. It came down to us being finalists for the 1991 Cleveland Browns job and he got the job and I didn’t. We went from friends to adversaries the next year because I found myself the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. As we competed against each other it was just a great competition.”
While Cowher doesn't think their 2001 and 2004 AFC Championship Game losses to the Patriots were due to Spygate, a number of his former players believe it did play a big role.
“When we played [New England] in the championship games, we would audible, and the whole defense switched to the side that we were running," Hines Ward said via Bryan DeArdo of CBS Sports. “I just don’t understand how [the Patriots] knew all our audibles, all our signals.”
Joey Porter said also said the Patriots "stole" two Super Bowls from the Steelers.
"Two times we could have blown them people out easily. They say, 'Oh, (Bill Belichick is) so smart. This is the best brain-storming coach.' Yeah, because he's cheating. He got caught," Porter said. "They've been videotaping for years, man. You cannot sit up there and honestly tell me if it wasn't working, why was he doing it so much? You're not going to sit up there and tell me if I'm a quarterback in my headset I know where the blitz is coming. I know where my hots and stuff is at before it happens. I know what play you're running on defense. All you got to do is be in the right position, just catch the ball."