Former Steelers coach Cowher visits Bucs: "I think what you're seeing is a team headed in the right direction.''
Former Steelers Super Bowl coach Bill Cowher visited the Bucs on Wednesday and said he liked what he saw and heard from the young football team.
Cowher and Pat Kirwan broadcast a Sirius NFL radio show from One Buc Place and interviewed players and coaches.
According to Cowher, the Bucs players appear comfortable in the team's offensive and defensive schemes in the second year under Raheem Morris.
"I like it. I think it's a young football team. I think it's a very focused group of guys,'' Cowher said. "There's great camaraderie on this team. I think they're very comfortable with the system on both sides of the ball.
"How they finished last year, winning two of their last three games. (Quarterback) Josh (Freeman) is obviously much more comfortable in this offense and I think defensively, they're excited about doing some new things, but getting back to some old things as well. So, I think it's a young football team -- again, I like what I see. There's going to be some growing pains. But I think what you're seeing is a team headed in the right direction.''
Cowher said he was particularly impressed with Freeman's size, arm strength and work ethic. But he said the Bucs need to establish a running game to take the pressure off their young passer and receivers. In Pittsburgh, Cowher drafted quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, a player Freeman has been compared to.
"I'm really impressed with Josh Freeman. I mean, the guy hasn't missed a day in the off-season,'' Cowher said. "He's been here and he's been in here trying to work at it...he's got all the physical tools. It's just going to take experience and that's a lot of things Ben took, too. The thing they have around him right now I like is the offensive line. I think the addition of (Keydrick) Vincent gives it some depth. And I think Cadillac (Williams) is going to be a little bit more healthy than he was last year. The second year is always a little bit better. Then there's (Derrick) Ward and Earnest Graham. I think it's a team that can run the football and I think that's one of the things you want to do while the outside receivers like Mike Williams and some of those other kids develop. Let them develop while you're able to establish you can run the ball.
"I think the defense, like I said, the young tackles are going to have to step up.''
Cowher said he believed the Bucs could win this season but have to get off to a fast start with a favorable schedule the first month of the regular season.
"I look at the record and their first three games, this is a team that can come out of these first three weeks and if I were them, I'd have a very short-term focus,'' Cowher said. "I'd look at those three games as being very important in establishing confidence. Confidence with a young football team is huge.''
Overall, Cowher said he agreed with the way general manager Mark Dominik and Morris were building the team with young players through the draft.
"Like I said, a lot of people are going to be growing together,'' Cowher said. "There's going to be growing pains. So patience will have to be applied. But develop an identity, find out what these guys do best and commit to that and not be swayed by results but be more swayed by a direction.''