More Steelers: Pittsburgh's spiritual leader
LATROBE, Pa. – One of the Pittsburgh Steelers' subplots is the future of Bill Cowher.
Cowher has two years remaining on his contract, but he raised eyebrows around the Steel City when he moved his wife and youngest daughter to North Carolina this offseason. Plenty of rumors have him quitting after this season and then coming back to coach in a couple of years.
Cowher, who is entering his 15th season as Steelers head coach, said he's trying to keep the issue from being a distraction.
"I don't discuss it," said Cowher, 49. "I am who I am, and I don't change. I haven't missed any meetings. I haven't missed any practices, and I haven't changed how I approach the game. All that stuff will take care of itself. The things you're discussing are speculation. I'm not going to sit here and talk about speculation.
"Sure it is [distracting]. It's like reading your own obituary sometimes – people talking about who is going to be the next coach – but I can't control it. What I can control is that people know I've been here for a period of time and I'm taking it year to year as I have the past couple of years. I think people are reading too much into it and speculating."
One of the most impressive players in camp has been second-year receiver Nate Washington, who looks like he will push for the No. 3 job vacated by Antwaan Randle El. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Washington plays bigger than he measures and made a series of catches on difficult passes in practice during the past week.
"I don't want to talk about him too much. His head might get too big," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said of Washington. "But he's a guy [who is] coming along well."
If you didn't know Roethlisberger had been in a motorcycle accident this offseason, you probably couldn't tell by looking at him. About the only truly noticeable difference is the slimmed-down look from losing roughly 15 pounds after the accident.
Asked if he was going to put the weight back on, Roethlisberger said: "I feel like I'm at a good weight right now. If I put on any weight at this point, it's going to be muscle mass and stuff from working out."
As for the accident, which happened in June, Roethlisberger's answers are primarily quick and well-rehearsed, an obvious sign that he's done talking about it. "It's in the past and it's time to talk about football," Roethlisberger said.
The Pittsburgh coaching staff is thinking of giving Roethlisberger more freedom to throw this season. In 32 career starts, including six playoff games, Roethlisberger has attempted more than 30 passes in a game only once, when he threw 41 times last December in a 38-31 loss to Cincinnati. He has reached 30 attempts only two other times.
For his part, Roethlisberger doesn't care so much about the number of throws. He's more concerned about what he can do for the offense.
"I don't think it's one of those things where I want to come out and throw it 80 times a game," he said. "I want to come out and be more productive myself with my decisions. I want to have more options so that if something doesn't look good, I can check out of it, make some adjustments so we can be in the best position possible."