Bill Cowher admits Steelers tried stealing opponents’ signals

To this day, the most popular counterargument to the Patriots’ infamous 2007 Spygate scandal is that every team engages in those practices.

Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher lent credence to that notion in a surprise revelation.

During a radio interview on Wednesday, Cowher admitted the Steelers attempted to steal opposing teams’ signals because it was “a part of the game.”

“The only thing they got caught (was) doing it with a camera,” Cowher said, referring to the Patriots. “We had people that always tried to steal signals. Stealing someone’s signals was a part of the game, and everyone attempted to do that.”

According to Cowher, his team used wristbands to try to identify opponents’ verbal signals that were being yelled out on the field.

Cowher downplayed its effectiveness, however, and asserted that the alleged cheating had nothing to do with Pittsburgh’s loss to New England in the 2004 AFC Championship game — one of the more memorable defeats in his tenure.

“[It] isn’t even an element anymore because of the communications that take place on the field to the quarterback, to the linebacker. So it’s an element of the game that doesn’t exist and, really, what happened when we lost that game is they outplayed us, and it had nothing to do with stealing signals or cheating or anything else. They were a better football team on that day.”

“We didn’t lose the game because of any Spygate, because of them having any additional things,” Cowher said. “I think if they’re guilty of anything, they’re guilty of arrogance because they were told not to do something. But it was something that everybody does.”

Cowher isn’t the first ex-coach or player to say stealing signals is “a part of the game,” and he’s likely not going to be the last.

[H/T Pittsburgh Tribune]

Zack Kelberman
An award-winning sportswriter, reporter and blogger, Zack currently serves as the Miami Dolphins live correspondent and Team Stream curator for Bleacher Report. He's also a freelance NFL writer and the founder/editor-in-chief of Helmet2Helmet. His work has appeared on media outlets such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports,,, and Zack can be reached on Twitter (@ZackKelberman) or via email (
  • UncommonSense

    Gotta say I agree with them, while it isn’t cool to have a guy designated to taping the calls using video, but to be on the sidelines or on the field and take notice to a certain signal typically means a certain call then you would be stupid to not notice a pattern and try to counter it, it is very much a part of the game.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    It’s sports and if you ain’t cheating you and tryin…anybody who disagrees has never played the game…only exception…PEDS which should be allowed and regulated by each league and I say this because if you know anything about it you already know that PED use is rampant in all leagues

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  • lmoreton

    Lets not forget that taping signals is still allowed, it just has to be from the “designated areas” such as the coaching boxes and a few other locations. Not only was it used in the past, but it is still used to this day by each and every team. The Patriots were made an example of because the NFL had to dole out a punishment to save its public image, NOT because they broke some hallow rule that all coaches abide by.

    • C’mon man

      Yeah, that and the fact Belicheat FORGED press passes to get his cameraman in the special area designated for press. And, oh ya, he had Matt Walsh film the Rams walk through before the Super Bowl. But other than that he obviously had no idea he was doing anything wrong.

      • Doug1001

        That story was recanted because the reported blatantly lied, but keep using it if you’d like.

    • James Bradley

      New England was using video equipment designated for taping kickers (to help look for inconsistencies in their kicking) and instead was taping opponents, in games and on tge sidelines. They also had people in the stands at games taping illegally (remember, this whole thing blew up because Green Bay officials caught a Pats employee taping from the stands and turned them in. This happened well before the NY Jets blew the lid off the whole mess). Teams that go to that length to steal are clearly violating the rules, NE was warned to stop and blatantly refused, thumbing their nose at the NFL. That’s why they got punished, they were warned and ingnored the warning

      • FU

        Blatently false statement. It has always been legal to film from the stands. Your entire statement is pure fiction, Cower has it completely right. The penalty was for being arrogant after a clarifying memo had been issued by the league. If you actually read the rule at the time you would know that Belichick’s interpetation was pretty valid. Once they ignored the clarifying memo they were fined heavily.

        • James Bradley

          First, there were numerous reports on ESPN, the regular networks, etc, detailing how Green Bay caught and ejected a Pats employee for illegally videotaping during a game and complained to the NFL before former Pats assistant turned Jets HC Eric Mangeni complained and turned them in. Nothing false about that, do your homework. NE was warned after the GB incident and ignored it.
          Second, NFL rules implicitly state very strict policies regarding taping during games, there has never been, even long before spygate, any “open door” policy allowing teams to video tape what they want during games. Teams are not allowed to even watch the network TV telecast of their games for fear the broadcast might pick up something that would give an unfair advantage.
          Third, former Pats punter Josh Miller does a radio show here in Pgh. I have heard him interviewed regarding Spygate since he was on the team when it happened. He was the one who explained the video taping placekicker angle. I guess you’re calling his story false too, even though he knows far more than you would since he’s an actual NFL player who was on the team when the infarctions occurred.
          Looks like the only person with “blatantly false” information here is you

  • C’mon man

    Its funny how much people support cheating around here. Well… I guess funny isn’t the right word. Thank goodness they have installed additional technology to make it harder to cheat but you know Belicheat is down at his local Radio Shack every day looking for the best equipment to solve that fix.

    • Teach Me How to Dougie Martin

      Seriously? Who on earth goes to Radioshack to solve anything? And why would Belichick need to cheat when he has Tom Brady at the helm?

  • Brady12

    Like I said every team does it but hey! Let’s just call the pats cheaters cause they won the most… Get over it every team did and that’s a fact.. So quit looking for reasons/excuses for Y ur lost!

    • Niles Standish

      So whats the end game?If you aint cheating You aint trying? Outstanding I guess that goes hand in hand with Good Sportsmanship,This world is so upside down Its pathetic!

    • Calvin G Suddeath

      With a moniker like yours,I would figure that you would come to their aid.

  • missedgehead

    Well, when the “scandal” broke out, I honestly shrugged my shoulders. I mean, similar stuff (trying to get a competitive advantage through dishonest means) happens everywhere (business,Capitalism, music (see accusation of Led Zep’s plagiarism). Of course, when I said this, lots of people jumped on me, especially fans of the team that Cowher used to coach. Well, perhaps they can slow down because their team did it also…..just like MANY other teams.

  • Paul

    U Patriots fans are idiots! Cowher said he tried stealing “Verbal” signals where as Belicheat was using video equipment to steal any signals. Faulk and Ward both said the Patriots defense knew exactly the audibles they were calling and shifted as quickly as the offenses had.

    You lovers ignore facts and ethics to help a billionaire get richer … sad it is

  • JK86

    Not sure how stealing signals is cheating. Its been done in baseball for years with nothing said about it. It is apart of the chess match of the game. Now that being said, video taping signals and studying them should be banned. That is taking it too far. If during the game they pick up on a signal and use it, good for them. Richard Sherman said they picked up on Manning’s signals at the line and knew where they were going. All part of the game. Video taping, no way that should be going on.

  • Danny Delouize

    stealing signals during the game isn’t the same as positioning camera men on mountain tops at 3 am around teams practice facilities…

    • TheOhiosVoices

      I never heard that accusation. Did that really happen?

    • Doug1001

      Just stumbled upon your insightful post – care to share the source? It sounds like a riveting story!

    • boyblue122

      that story was retracted by the Boston Globe because it was proven false

  • TheOhiosVoices

    Many teams in MLB have been busted for the same thing. The Cleveland Indians even had a TV camera in place for stealing signs.