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Steelers closing in on hiring head coach

PITTSBURGH (Jan. 10, 2007) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers might be close to choosing Bill Cowher's successor.

With assistant coaches Russ Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt the front-runners, the Steelers wrapped up their fourth interview in four days by meeting with Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin. If the Steelers have any more interviews scheduled, they aren't saying.

Tomlin is 34, the same age Cowher was when the Steelers hired him in 1992. Tomlin is a decided long shot in Pittsburgh, but is one of the NFL's rising young coaches who also interviewed with the Miami Dolphins.

"I don't see myself as 34," Tomlin said. "I just see myself as a football coach."

The question now is whether the Steelers -- namely, president Art Rooney II and chairman Dan Rooney -- see Grimm or Whisenhunt as the better head coach. And it could be that both will be head coaches within a matter of days.

What the Steelers do might have a ripple effect across the NFL, where the Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals and Oakland Raiders also need a coach. The Cardinals might be waiting to see whom the Steelers hire because they also interviewed Grimm and Whisenhunt, though they have another session with Houston Texans assistant head coach Mike Sherman on Jan. 11.

While Whisenhunt's offense has been productive and consistent since he became the offensive coordinator in 2004, Grimm has long been seen by the Steelers as a possible successor to Cowher. The offensive line coach added the title of assistant head coach when he was a finalist for the Bears' job three years ago.

Grimm has a strong personality and is respected by his players -- partly because few, if any, are likely to have the career he had. The former Washington Redskins guard is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and owns four Super Bowl rings, three as a player and one as a Steelers assistant last year.

The Steelers also interviewed Chicago defensive coordinator Ron Rivera on Jan. 7, but would have to wait until after the Bears' season ends to hire him. With the Steelers having two in-house choices attracting attention in other cities, that seems highly unlikely.

The Rooneys haven't signaled when they will hire a coach, though they might do so by Jan. 12 -- a week after Cowher resigned following 15 seasons.

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2007, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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