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The Big Picture: Maas envious of ex-teammate

Monday, November 11, 2002

Bill Cowher stories? Oh, yeah, Bill Maas has a few. Bring up the subject, and Maas, a former Pitt and Kansas City defensive tackle, fashions a smile creases his mustache-and-beard combination that -- hmmmm -- looks remarkably like Cowher's. His voice resonates throughout the Fox broadcast booth at Heinz Field. Maybe most everyone else in the place -- in the Steeler Nation, for that matter -- was grumbling about the Steelers' head coach by the end of this 34-34 tie yesterday, but Maas remains a Cowher guy.

"When Marty Schottenheimer first got there, he was a linebackers coach," Maas said, harking to the Chiefs days. "Dave Adolph was the defensive coordinator, then he left. Bill just went in and pleaded, 'Give me a shot.' Carl Petersen and Marty gave him a shot. He was a relentless guy.

"He's still a football player. He likes the guys. He likes being around the locker room. He wants to see his 'teammates' do well. I say 'teammates' because that's how he handles the guys. If he has to lay down the law, he will. But he wants to see you do well as his 'teammates,' wants to see success."

OK, OK.

Now let's get to the stories.

The saliva: "We used to kid that nobody wanted to sit in the front row of the team meeting. If you did, bring a bar of soap. Because you'll get a shower." Some things don't change, except for the venue -- that happens more outdoors, on the practice field and on game days, than in meeting rooms.

The hammie: "At that time, he was maybe 32. He'd always try to be the first one down on the [scout-team] kickoff coverage. One day, he pulled a hamstring. It hurt him bad, too. Fell down on the ground. He was embarrassed and hacked at the same time. Our guys gave him so much grief about that. That was him, though. He always found some kind of competition."

Maas truly is jealous of Cowher.

"You know what? I love that guy, honestly. A lot times when you're in one place a long time, people tend to get nit-picky about things. He left the room the other day, and I said to the crew, 'I'm so envious of that guy.'

"To be part of this town, to be part of this organization, to be part of the Rooney family ... There are three cities that permeate football toughness: Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Buffalo. The people are football. Football is the people. I just did a game in Seattle. You think the people there give a rat's heinie about football?

"There's a special feeling about the Steelers here. I just get excited coming back to do a game."

Adding to his personal enthrallment was a Saturday afternoon at Heinz Field with resurgent Pitt, a team that won an eighth regular-season game for the first time since Maas' playing days, a program that honored another former Maas teammate named Dan Marino.

Marino, now a TV guy on CBS and HBO, was trotted onto the field at the 13 between the first and second quarters in commemoration of his induction next month into the College Football Hall of Fame. "That was nice. I was glad to see Pitt do that," Maas said.

What, he isn't ticked that the Panthers haven't gotten around to honoring him?

"I figured something out," Maas said. "The guys who get into Halls of Fame, you either play your way in or you pay your way in. I didn't do either."

E-mailbag

The readers write ... very well.

Pitt, Pirates, symphony and ballet ticket holder Andy Allen of Mount Washington, in response to comments in this space a fortnight ago asking what the other one-fourth of Pittsburgh does when it isn't watching a televised Steelers game:

"Speaking for those of us who were forged in the violent crucible of iron, coal and steel, and yet somehow were tempered by mitigating influences of the arts, sciences, theatre, etc., let me proudly state that I was not one of the I.Q.-challenged boorish cretins who, like the lemmings of legend, Pavlov's dog, or Rain Man must stare at the boob tube anytime 'Dem Stillers' are on, and then, even more mindlessly [were that possible], listen for hours on end at the replay shows, listening fervently to the sage and immortal words of Mark, Stan, Thor, Curly, Larry and Moe."

Dang. Only two criticisms: That's a lot of commas, and Thor no longer works on local radio/TV.


Chuck Finder can be reached at cfinder@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1724.

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