"This feels like I did when I won the Super Bowl because I said, it took a while to make sure, was that real? This seems very surreal to me. Wow," Cowher said during a live announcement on the CBS pregame show.
The full list of inductees, which will include 10 seniors, three contributors and the aforementioned two coaches, will be revealed on Jan. 15 on NFL Network's Good Morning Football. Those 15 will join the five modern-era inductees, who will be announced on Super Bowl Weekend during NFL Honors.
Cowher will become the second Steelers coach in the Hall of Fame, joining his predecessor Chuck Noll (1969-91), and the 22nd primary Steelers inductee when he is enshrined this summer. Three of his former players (Jerome Bettis, Dermontti Dawson, Rod Woodson) already own gold jackets, and Cowher will soon join them.
"I was just telling V (wife Veronica Stigeler), I've come to grips, I'm OK if it doesn't happen," Cowher said. "I've been so blessed. For those eight candidates, every one of you deserves to be there. Football is a total team sport. I had some great players, great coaches, the best organization in football. I've lived a blessed life. ...
"To give back something to the game of football has been a part of my life. The virtues that it teaches you, the morals that you have the obligation to move on, the platforms that we have, I'm a blessed man. And I've been very blessed to be surrounded by some very special people."
A special Blue-Ribbon Panel comprised of many members of the overall Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee, Hall of Famers, coaches, football executives and several leading historians scrutinized the merits of nearly 300 candidates nominated for consideration as part of the Hall's special Centennial Class of 2020. The group of nominees was reduced to a list of 38 finalists in December that were debated in a meeting and voted on by the Blue-Ribbon Panel on Wednesday to elect the 15-member "Centennial Slate" to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A former linebacker for the Eagles and Browns in the early 1980s, Cowher made his bones as a special teams and defensive backs coach with the Browns from 1985 through 1988. After spending three years as defensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs, Cowher was hired by the Steelers in 1992 to take over for the retiring Noll and become just the second Steelers coach since the merger and the 15th overall.
Cowher coached the Steelers for 15 seasons from 1992 to 2006, leading Pittsburgh to a 149-90-1 regular-season record, 10 playoff appearances and eight division titles (including five in his first six seasons). He took home AP Coach of the Year honors in his first year on the job.
Under Cowher, the Steelers made two Super Bowl appearances (XXX, XL) and won one in 2005. The Steelers won three road playoff games over the Bengals, Colts and Broncos to reach Super Bowl XL, before hoisting the Lombardi following a 21-10 win over the Seahawks. Cowher stepped down following the 2006 season.
Now 62 years old, Cowher has been a fixture on CBS' The NFL Today since 2007.