Mike Mularkey is expected to be named head coach of the Buffalo Bills as early as Wednesday, according to sources in Pittsburgh and Buffalo.
As the news swept through the Steelers' practice facility on Tuesday, Coach Bill Cowher interviewed one of his former defensive coordinators, Dick LeBeau, in the morning, met with offensive line coach Russ Grimm in the early afternoon, and spoke again with LeBeau later in the afternoon.
Grimm, who'd just returned from Chicago after interviewing to become the Bears' head coach, is the top candidate to replace Mularkey as the Steelers' offensive coordinator.
The defensive coordinator's opening is a three-man derby between LeBeau, Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache and Steelers secondary coach Willy Robinson. A fourth candidate, Ted Cottrell, became the Minnesota Vikings' defensive coordinator Tuesday.
LeBeau was the assistant head coach with the Bills last season, and still could wind up back in Buffalo with Mularkey. However, LeBeau considers Pittsburgh to be his second home -- behind his native Cincinnati -- and has family here. He also commutes frequently to Cincinnati, making Pittsburgh a better geographical fit.
LeBeau has also won big in Pittsburgh, where he coached under Cowher from 1992-96. LeBeau devised the zone-blitz scheme that became a Steelers staple in the 1990s. He was the team's secondary coach from 1992-94 before becoming the defensive coordinator in 1995, when the Steelers made a Super Bowl appearance. LeBeau left after the 1996 season to accept a similar job with the Cincinnati Bengals, and then became the Bengals' head coach from 2000-02.
After being fired by the Bengals last winter, LeBeau was sought out by the Steelers to become an assistant coach last January, but he turned down the offer.
"The time frame just didn't work out," LeBeau explained. "I wanted to make sure that if I continued to work that I could enter into the enterprise with the effort and the dedication that whomever I worked for would feel like they got a bargain. I wanted to make sure that I felt that way. And it just didn't mesh with Coach Bill's schedule at the time and so it didn't work out."
Instead, LeBeau went to work for Donahoe in Buffalo as the Bills' assistant head coach/defensive coordinator, but found the position lacking.
"I didn't call the game," he said. "I had input but didn't really call the game and that's part of the game that I missed."
At 66, LeBeau remains fit and energetic. He drove to Pittsburgh on Monday and watched Pitt beat Notre Dame that night with a member of the Steelers' front office.
"I've always had a very special spot in my heart for Pittsburgh," he said. "The years that I spent here, if memory serves me right, we won a couple games. But the people here, the sports fans of Pittsburgh, I think are exceptional and they were always particularly good to me. As I said, it's always been like coming home really. So we're talking. We'll see how it goes."
The Steelers will interview Blache (pronounced Blotch), 55, on Wednesday. A 15-year NFL coaching veteran, Blache has coordinated the Bears' defense since 1999. He's also under consideration to become the Bears' head coach.
Also on Tuesday, the Steelers interviewed Ray Kirksey about becoming their wide receivers coach.
Former WR coach Kenny Jackson was fired last week, along with former defensive coordinator Tim Lewis.
Kirksey, 43, coached in the Division One college ranks from 1974-99, including a four-year stint as running backs coach with Pitt from 1990-93. Since then, he's coached wide receivers in the NFL at San Francisco, Detroit and most recently Jacksonville.
Mularkey going, going ...
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