The fourth candidate to replace Bill Cowher as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers interviewed Wednesday as Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin came in for a visit.
It's highly likely that Tomlin's visit was made as a courtesy to his former boss, Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy, whom Tomlin worked for in Tampa Bay. It also appeases the so-called "Rooney Rule," which is named after Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, who pushed several years ago to force other owners to interview minorities for their head coaching openings.
As such, the Rooney family felt the need to interview not just one minority candidate but two – the other being Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.
While Rivera and Tomlin are viable NFL head coaching candidates – both will be head coaches at some point – they aren't the candidates the Steelers favor the most.
From the beginning of this process, the Steelers liked offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line/assistant head coach Russ Grimm the most.
The Steelers, even though they stumbled in 2006, are built to win again in 2007. The nucleus of the team returns intact and with a few tweaks here and there, the team can be a Super Bowl contender again next season.
But bringing in a whole new coach, with new ideas and new staff could upset that balance.
Art Rooney II, who is heading the current coaching search along with his father and director of football operations Kevin Colbert, said last week that the new coach would be allowed to hire his own assistants.
Given that the team likes the makeup of this current staff and that Whisenhunt or Grimm, if hired, would keep this staff intact, that also plays largely in their favor.
But which one to hire?
That is the question the Steelers are asking themselves right now.
Both were successful NFL players and both have had success as NFL assistant coaches. In other words, both have paid their dues.
And there's a good chance that whichever one doesn't get the Steelers' job this year will get another head coaching position within the next year.
At this point Grimm, by my estimations, appears to have the edge.
A Western Pennsylvania native and former Pitt star who is a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as an offensive lineman with the Washington Redskins, Grimm commands respect in the locker room. When the players talk about Grimm, they do so with some reverence. He also is a no-nonsense type who will be less of a friend to the players – as Cowher was with his stars – and more someone who is willing to give them a kick in the butt when needed.
Not that the players don't respect Whisenhunt. He is also a man the players hold in high esteem. And he has many of the same qualities that Grimm has and is an excellent football coach.
But Grimm just feels right for this job at this time.
Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.