The opening at offensive coordinator became official when Mike Mularkey, 42, was introduced to the Buffalo media yesterday as the youngest coach in Bills history. Mularkey also announced he has hired Tom Clements as his offensive coordinator.
Clements had been the Steelers' quarterbacks coach the last three seasons. He was hired in 2001, just after Mularkey had been promoted from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator by the Steelers. The two coaches aided in the revival of quarterback Kordell Stewart that season, and were subsequently helpful in turning insurance salesman Tommy Maddox into a productive NFL quarterback.
Mularkey is also interested in retaining Dick LeBeau, the Bills' assistant coach/defensive coordinator last season, but LeBeau is considering an offer to become the Steelers' defensive coordinator.
Mularkey, in turn, has denied permission for the Washington Redskins to interview Jerry Gray, the Bills' co-defensive coordinator last season. It's believed Mularkey would like to keep Gray available to him in case LeBeau accepts the Steelers' offer.
The Steelers also lost a defensive assistant yesterday when secondary coach Willie Robinson became the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers. The move reunites Robinson with 49ers Coach Dennis Erickson, for whom Robinson served as assistant coach and defensive coordinator on previous staffs.
"Willy's contributions in his four years here have been invaluable," Steelers Coach Bill Cowher said through a press release. "Not only is Willy an excellent football coach, he is a quality person who not doubt will be missed. I could not wish him more success in his new position."
Said Robinson through the same press release: "I appreciate the opportunity Coach Cowher and the Rooney family presented me. Not only was it an opportunity that meant so much to my family and me, it also was the generosity, direction and sense of family that the Steelers organization has given me. Because of family situations, the Steelers organization allowed a window of opportunity for me to return closer to my home."
Cowher must now fill both coordinator positions and name new coaches for wide receivers and defensive backs. It's not known whether Cowher will name a new quarterbacks coach. The position was created for Clements before the 2001 season.
The frontrunners to replace Mularkey as offensive coordinator are tight ends coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm. Cowher hasn't set a timetable for filling either of the coordinator jobs.
The Steelers also added 10 new players to their roster, including practice-squad members Josh Burr (OT), Morgan Pears (OT), Jimond Pugh (C), David Upchurch (DE) and J.T. Wall (FB). Also signed were Mike Barr (P), Nashville Dyer (CB), Jim Jones (OG), Chance Pears (long snapper) and Brian Robinson (WR).
Dyer and Robinson signed with the Steelers last year as rookie free agents and were cut before the season. Barr, Burr, Dyer, Pears and Robinson will be allocated to NFL Europe.
Mularkey, two assistants gone
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