9-17-03, 6:25 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, the first man to hire Marvin Lewis for a NFL job 11 years ago, has seen the Bengals' tape and there are no surprises. Cowher has a 16-6 edge on the Bengals since he arrived in Pittsburgh in that 1992 season,. and one of the reasons the Bengals hired Lewis is to have some of that Steeler magic rub off.
"No question that they are playing with a competitive and a resolve you knew he would get players to play that way," Cowher said from Pittsburgh Wednesday. "Their game last week was very impressive. . .To go into Oakland and play them the way they did and have every opportunity to win it is very impressive. . . If you look at where Marvin's been and how he earned the opportunity he's been given, he's proven at each opportunity that he'll excel at it."
Lewis coached Cowher's linebackers for four seasons before becoming the Ravens' defensive coordinator, and he acknowledged Wednesday with his signature chuckle, " "It's obviously special. I wouldn't be here had it not been for Bill, and I don't want to disappoint him."
They played against each other in high school (Lewis at Fort Cherry and Cowher at Carlynton) and here is the scouting report on each other:
Lewis: "Bill was a very intense player, just like you see on the sideline now. He was the middle linebacker and offensive center. Rumor has it, that he used to foam at the mouth some."
Cowher:, whose team lost to Fort Cherry in '74: "Your senior year is the last time so that's the one you remember. Marvin's got one up on us. He was a good player. He's still with the opposition, I'm not giving him too much credit."
They are just two of five NFL head coaches from Pittsburgh, along with New Orleans' Jim Haslett, Miami's Dave Wannstedt, and San Diego's Marty Schottenheimer. In fact, Schottenheimer and Lewis were born on the same day Sept. 23 15 years apart and played for the same coach (Jim Garry) at the same high school.
"I would say probably all of us growing up played a lot of sports , and played a number of positions, probably learned the fundamentals of the game from the ground up," Lewis said. "I know Marty and I played for a very fine person and a very fine coach, who taught us not only about football, but as a person, and he treated people that way. Bill played for a very similar coach. I'm not familiar with Dave or Jim and their situations. So there are a lot of common things
Cowher thinks it has something to do with the fundamentals and an early start.
"No. 1, football is held in very high esteem in Pittsburgh," Cowher said. "People take a lot of pride within your community. It's a lot like the NFL here. People identify with it here with the high schools. You have high school coaches who go way back.You learn at an earlier age how to compete and how to work and appreciate the opportunity when given."