SOUTH SIDE (KDKA) — There were smiles and hugs all around Thursday as Bill Cowher attended a Steelers practice for the first time since leaving the team back in 2006.

“It’s great to see him, you know,” Brett Keisel, who spent four seasons with Cowher, said. “I have a lot of great memories of that guy. He gave me my first start in this business, so I love the guy.”

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Cowher spent part of his day with the man who replaced him, Mike Tomlin, but with a playoff game looming against the Ravens, Troy Polamalu was in a nostalgic Pittsburgh-Baltimore kind of mood.

“It was actually really nice to see him, but I actually thinking to myself when I saw him, I said, ‘I bet he could coach and Brian Billick could come back and they both could coach this game given the rivalry that we have,’” he said.

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“He’s out here working, he’s just not out here playing, but it’s great to see him come back,” Keisel said. “He looks good, he looks happy and hopefully he’ll bring some luck.”

But even as the good mood spread, thoughts did return to Cowher who lost his wife, Kaye, to cancer earlier this year.

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“It’s been a tough year for him, obviously, but he’s family to us,” Keisel said.