PITTSBURGH – Bill Cowher returned to the Steelers' sideline for the first time since resigning as their coach four years ago.
Cowher, attending in his role as a CBS analyst, watched the Steelers' final practice Thursday before their AFC playoff game against Baltimore on Saturday. It was his first official visit to their practice site since he stopped coaching.
Cowher watched part of the practice with Mike Tomlin, who succeeded him in 2007 and won the Super Bowl a season later.
Cowher stopped in his native Pittsburgh to conduct interviews with Ben Roethlisberger, James Harrison and Hines Ward, all of whom played for him. Cowher coached the Steelers from 1992-2006, reaching the AFC championship game six times and the Super Bowl twice before winning an NFL title during the 2005 season.
Numerous players hugged and exchanged handshakes with Cowher, who now lives in Raleigh, N.C.
"We were just talking about the old days real quick," linebacker Larry Foote said. "I know everybody wanted to talk to him."
Cowher was in Pittsburgh earlier this season to do a post-suspension interview with Roethlisberger, but it was not conducted at the practice building.
"I have a lot of great memories of that guy and he gave me my first start in this business. I love the guy, I really do," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "It's great to see him come back, he looks good, he looks happy and hopefully it will bring us some luck this week."
The Steelers reached the playoffs in each of Cowher's first six seasons and 10 of 15 seasons, going 12-9 in the playoffs. He had a 149-90-1 record.
"We didn't talk any football, we just asked how he was doing and how things are," defensive end Aaron Smith said. "It was nice to see him. He'll always have a special spot in my life because he was my first professional coach and we were together for a long time."
Numerous players consoled Cowher over the death of his wife, Kaye, who died of cancer in June. She and the couple's three daughters — Megan, Lauren and Lindsay — were a familiar sight at Steelers' home games and the team's training camp.
"It's been a tough year for him, obviously, but he's family to us," Keisel said. "It's great to see him."
Cowher has been linked to numerous NFL coaching jobs since he left Pittsburgh, but he is not known to have interviewed for or aggressively pursued any jobs.