Steelers will not rush to find replacement for Cowher, move into 2nd interview phase
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers revealed two things yesterday: That they have narrowed their coaching search to three candidates, and that they will move at their pace and not rush to hire a new head coach.
The man who will replace Bill Cowher as the next Steelers coach will be Russ Grimm, Mike Tomlin or Ron Rivera.
Grimm is their assistant head coach and line coach. Tomlin is the Minnesota Vikings' defensive coordinator and Rivera is the Chicago Bears' defensive coordinator.
Tomlin will have his second interview with the Steelers today. Grimm will interview tomorrow. The Steelers cannot talk to Rivera again until after the NFC championship game Sunday if the Bears lose or after the Feb. 4 Super Bowl.
"We are pleased with the progress of our search to date," Steelers President Art Rooney II said in a statement released by the club. "We now will move into the second interview phase and we are confident that each of the candidates on our short list will be excellent head coaches in the NFL.
"It is our task to determine which one is the best candidate for the Pittsburgh Steelers at this point in time. Our time frame remains as was stated at the beginning. We will conclude the search when we have found the best coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers."
That time frame could take another three weeks if they wait to talk to Rivera again, or his candidacy could hinge on whether his team is successful in the NFC championship game Sunday against the New Orleans Saints in Chicago. If the Bears lose, Rivera would be available to interview with the Steelers immediately. If the Bears win, NFL rules require the Steelers to wait until Feb. 5.
The only candidate knocked out of the process was Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey, who was interviewed Saturday after a request by Cowher. Gailey is reported to be one of three finalists to become Miami Dolphins coach. Tomlin also had been a candidate in Miami but now appears to be out of the picture.
The fifth candidate to replace Cowher, Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, was hired Sunday by the Arizona Cardinals as their head coach.
Whisenhunt and Grimm returned to the Steelers' facility on the South Side yesterday -- one to clean out his desk and the other to return to work. The two were considered the top candidates to replace Cowher.
Whisenhunt celebrated his first full day as the Cardinals' head coach by flying back home late Sunday night. He said goodbye to former co-workers at the Steelers yesterday. He will return to Phoenix this morning for an afternoon news conference to introduce him as the Cardinals' coach.
Grimm went to work with what's left of Cowher's coaching staff as the three-man search committee -- Dan and Art Rooney, and football operations director Kevin Colbert -- set their strategy for a second round of interviews.
All the Steelers' assistants are under contract, so Whisenhunt cannot offer any of them a job to join him in Arizona unless the Steelers give him permission. That's not likely to happen, if at all, until the Steelers hire a new coach. If Grimm is selected, he's likely to keep much of that staff. If it's Rivera or Tomlin, the Steelers would give the coach a free hand in picking his staff.
"I'd like to take everybody but obviously that's not going to happen," Whisenhunt said of the Steelers' assistant coaches.
With running backs coach Dick Hoak having retired, Whisenhunt taking a new job and Cowher resigning, there are at least three openings on the Steelers' staff.
The Steelers never asked Whisenhunt to try to delay his decision in Arizona so they could hire him. Cardinals officials asked him for a decision Sunday, and he accepted their job offer without checking with the Steelers. Whisenhunt said the Steelers never told him he would not be hired by them.
"I was not told that. They were very honest and open about their process and I respect them for that. They obviously have been very successful with that because they haven't had but two coaches in a long time. I can say nothing but positive things about them, but, no, I was not told that I wasn't getting the job.
"I felt like the situation presented itself to me and it was a tough decision because, like I said, Pittsburgh's been so special to me and my family. We just felt we had to do it."