Bill Cowher defends Bill Belichick, Spygate: 'It's only cheating if you get caught'

·2-min read

There's a case to be made that former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher should have more Super Bowl rings. Cowher and the Steelers were perennial Super Bowl contenders from 2001-2005. The Steelers won one championship over that period, with two of their biggest playoff losses happening against a team that engaged in questionable tactics.

That franchise would be the New England Patriots, who defeated the Steelers in the playoffs in 2001 and 2004. The Patriots were reportedly engaging in Spygate — in which they videotaped opponents' coaches and practices — during that period.

You might think any coach who missed out on another ring would be upset about that, but Cowher took a different approach, according to Ed Bouchette of The Athletic.

“It’s only cheating if you get caught,” he told me. “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 he got the 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 blame the Patriots or Bill Belichick for those playoff losses. Instead, he said the Steelers didn't make the proper tactical adjustments. Cowher also didn't fault the Patriots for engaging in Spygate, noting, "You're always looking for those little things that give you a competitive edge."

Bill Cowher's legacy not impacted by Spygate 

Other coaches, especially ones without rings, might see it differently. In Cowher's case, he managed to win it all in 2005. He also made the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020. Those losses didn't impact Cowher's legacy, though playoff losses to the Patriots may have impacted how teams view John Fox and Jack Del Rio, who each lost playoff games to the Patriots during that same period. 

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