Thursday, December 28, 2006
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If the game Sunday is Bill Cowher's last as the Steelers' coach, the team's captains would like to see the team promote from within.
Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm, also the Steelers' assistant head coach, are considered strong candidates to replace Cowher if he steps down after the season.
"Of course, you would love to stay in house," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "The transition ... the coaching staff knows you and you see some of the same faces."
Guard Alan Faneca agreed with his fellow offensive co-captain.
"If there is a change, you'd always like to see a guy you know and have a feeling for. But, if something happens, you never know which way it's going to go."
Continuity on a team that won the Super Bowl fewer than 11 months ago, plus familiarity with systems on offense and defense were cited as big factors for promoting a Steelers assistant to the head-coaching job.
"I would rather keep it in house, keep it familiar with people you know," said linebacker James Farrior, a defensive co-captain. "We wouldn't have to change so much; the systems would probably stay pretty much the same, you might have a few, little differences. Hopefully, the coaching staff would stay together."
Cowher has run a 3-4 defense throughout his 15 seasons as Steelers coach and four different defensive coordinators, including two stints by Dick LeBeau. His offensive styles have changed through the years, from a brute power offense in the early seasons to more balanced offenses, based on the styles of quarterbacks and running backs he has had.
Whisenhunt and Grimm work together on the game plans. Whisenhunt calls the plays from the press box during the game. Grimm, who coaches from the sideline, helps make the adjustments at halftime.
Both men have turned down chances to be head coaches in the NFL.
Grimm was interviewed three years ago by the Chicago Bears but withdrew his name when he was told which assistant coaches he would have to keep. He was a candidate for some jobs last season, including one in Detroit, but the Lions did not want to wait until after the Super Bowl for him.
Whisenhunt might have had the job in St. Louis, but the Rams weren't willing to wait, either. He turned down a chance to become the Oakland Raiders' coach after they interviewed him. His name has surfaced in Atlanta as a candidate to replace Jim Mora if, as expected, he is fired soon after the season ends.
Whisenhunt, 44, was born in Atlanta, played at Georgia Tech and played his first four seasons in the NFL as a tight end for the Falcons.
First things first with the Steelers, though -- there will be no candidates for the head coaching job unless Cowher vacates it, and none of the team captains said he knows what his head coach will do.
"I don't think anyone in this locker room wants it to be his last game," said defensive co-captain Joey Porter. "In situations like that, not one of us has an impact on how that's going to go. You just kind of stay out of that situation.
"That's the man's business and, hopefully he's here and until he tells me anything different, that's what I'm planning on."