Former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher might have a couple more Super Bowl rings if he didn’t have to face the New England Patriots in the 2001 and 2004 AFC Championship games.
Despite the disappointment of those two defeats, Cowher doesn’t believe the Spygate scandal that has negatively affected Patriots coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots franchise since the 2007 season had any impact on the outcomes.
“We didn’t lose the game because of any Spygate, because of them having any additional things,” Cowher said in a radio interview Wednesday, per CBS Pittsburgh. “I think if they’re guilty of anything, they’re guilty of arrogance, because they were told not to do something. But it was something that everybody does. The only thing they got caught [was] doing it with a camera. We had people that always tried to steal signals. Stealing someone’s signals was a part of the game, and everybody attempted to do that.”
Cowher also explained that “what happened when we lost [the 2004 AFC title game] is they outplayed us, and it has nothing to do with stealing signals, or cheating, or anything else. They were a better football team on that day.”
It’s hard to argue with Cowher’s assessment of the Patriots-Steelers matchup in January of 2005. New England jumped out to a 24-3 halftime lead, forced four turnovers and gained 339 yards of offense en route to a 41-27 victory. The Patriots clearly were the superior team and walked out of Heinz Field with a much-deserved win.
The 2001 AFC title game was a much closer contest, with the Patriots earning a 24-17 win, but they also never trailed in the game and led 21-3 at one point in the second half.
The Steelers and Patriots have not met in the postseason since that matchup nine years ago. Since then, Pittsburgh has played in three Super Bowls and won twice (2006, 2008). New England has played in two Super Bowls (2007, 2011) and lost both.
The Patriots will play the Denver Broncos in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, and a victory would give New England its sixth Super Bowl berth since 2001.