By Jared Trexler
What many NFL insiders quietly kept to themselves will now become a loud, constant roar following Pittsburgh's thud...a sound that accompanied the defending Super Bowl champions' exit from the AFC playoff picture on Sunday in Baltimore.
ESPN.com's John Clayton first hinted at the question that will be thrown around the Steel City over the remainder of the season.
Will Bill Cowher stay on as head football coach?
One football insider who has a connection to the Steelers told The Phanatic Monday morning that Cowher "looks lost" and his head seems "someplace far removed from the field."
Super Bowl hangover?
No, says the source. "I think he's accomplished it all. He's burnt out. Tired. Priorities have changed. He isn't getting younger."
When asked if Cowher was considering stepping down at season's end, the source revealed, "I think he is seriously considering it..."
After a brief pause, he did add, "But I'm not sure this is how he wanted to go out. Could he become reinvigorated? Sure. Will he? I don't think so."
Two college football sources with an understanding of the coaching landscape told the Phanatic they can't see Cowher having any desire to coach collegiately, possibly at his alma mater (North Carolina State), which just fired its head football coach Chuck Amato on Sunday.
"Tired is tired," said one of the sources. "It wouldn't be money. I think when he's done, he's done."
Cowher's contract with the Steelers runs through next season, but he has never gone this close to a contract's completion without signing an extension. The Steelers attempted to negotiate with Cowher's representatives before the season, but the club has a strict policy of not talking contracts during the campaign.
Cowher is the longest tenured coach with one team in the NFL.