Thu, Jan 26, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Cowher decides Steelers will play in white jerseys


To coach Bill Cowher, the Pittsburgh Steelers simply look right in white.

The Steelers will buck years of tradition and wear their white road uniforms in the Super Bowl against Seattle on Feb. 5 in Detroit, even though they are designated by the NFL as the home team and could wear their more imposing black jerseys.

The black jerseys and gold pants are the Steelers' traditional look, and numerous sports teams have switched to black uniforms in recent years because they believe it creates a more intimidating presence.

Cowher made the choice by himself and without consulting with ownership, saying, "We're not playing at Heinz Field so, in my mind, it's an away game."

The Steelers' unprecedented success as a road team no doubt factored into Cowher's decision to wear white for the fourth consecutive game. The Steelers are the first team to knock off the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 seeded playoff teams in a conference to reach the Super Bowl. They have won in successive weeks at Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Denver.

Their choice will put the Seahawks in their metallic-blue home jerseys. Seattle's record was 10-2 in the regular season and playoffs while wearing blue this season.

Cowher's decision to wear white has caused the biggest stir in a town where it's difficult to drive past more than one or two houses without seeing a black and gold team item or banner. Cowher became perplexed at the constant questioning about the issue at his weekly news conference, finally saying, "You want to know what shoes I'm wearing, too?"

This month, for the first time, an NFL team traded for a black head coach.

Otherwise, the annual round of hirings has been a disappointment to those who have worked to bring more diversity to the league's coaching ranks. Nine out of 10 openings have been filled, with no net gain in the current tally of six black head coaches.

"We have some things to point to that we think are successful," lawyer Cyrus Mehri said on Tuesday at a forum on hiring practices sponsored by the American Constitution Society. "We had a record number of interviews this year, over 25, which will increase or strengthen the pipeline as we go forward. We also had for the first time a trade for an African-American coach.

"That being said, we still believe that there's a double-standard," he said. "We still believe it's an uphill battle, it's not a level playing field, and there is evidence of racial bias in the hiring cycle."

It's been nearly three years since Mehri and the late Johnnie Cochran released a landmark report that criticized NFL hiring practices and prompted the league to create the "Rooney Rule," which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate when searching for a new head coach.

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