By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Russ Grimm became the leading candidate
as the next Steelers coach when Ken Whisenhunt accepted the job to become coach of the Arizona Cardinals yesterday.
Mr. Grimm, the Steelers' assistant head coach and offensive line coach, could be named their head coach by the end of the week.
Mr. Whisenhunt, the Steelers' offensive coordinator, and Mr. Grimm were the top two candidates to replace Bill Cowher. Although three other coaches have been interviewed by the Steelers, it has long been considered a two-horse race between the team's top two offensive assistants.
The Steelers had not offered Mr. Whisenhunt or Mr. Grimm the job. They also were not given an opportunity to counter the job offer that Mr. Whisenhunt accepted from the Cardinals yesterday.
Arizona will officially announce Mr. Whisenhunt's hiring tomorrow.
The Steelers also have interviewed Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey and two defensive coordinators from NFC teams -- Ron Rivera of the Chicago Bears and Mike Tomlin of the Minnesota Vikings. By virtue of the Bears' beating the Seattle Seahawks in their playoff game yesterday, Mr. Rivera could not be hired until either Chicago loses next Sunday in the NFC championship game or until after the Feb. 4 Super Bowl.
The Steelers also asked and received permission from the Houston Texans to talk to Mike Sherman, that team's assistant head coach/offense, but an interview isn't expected to be scheduled
Cowher last week recommended that the Steelers hire Mr. Gailey, and because of that Mr. Gailey was a late addition to the team's list of candidates and was interviewed on Saturday in Pittsburgh. However, he is not considered a viable candidate for the job.
The Steelers still could conduct a second round of interviews. If they do, Mr. Grimm and perhaps Tomlin would be those brought in. But for the Steelers to hire anyone but Mr. Grimm at this point would be considered a monumental upset. All of the Steelers' assistant coaches are under contract through next season and team officials want to keep the continuity of a staff they believe is among the best they've had on a team one year removed from a Super Bowl championship.
Because those coaches are under contract, Mr. Whisenhunt will be unable to bring many -- if any -- with him to Arizona
. Mr. Grimm likely would promote wide receivers coach Bruce Arians to offensive coordinator, a job he once held in Cleveland. Mr. Grimm would have to hire a running backs coach to replace the retired Dick Hoak, a receivers coach to replace Mr. Arians and an offensive line coach to replace himself.