Steelers chairman Dan Rooney and team president Art Rooney II met Tuesday with Bill Cowher and asked Cowher to make an immediate decision on whether he will resign after 15 seasons as head coach of the Steelers. Cowher had hoped to take up to a week from the end of the season before making a decision.
However, indications after the meeting are that Cowher has been given until the beginning of next week to make his decision. Cowher is expected to work as a television analyst this Saturday for NBC Sports.
A team source told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that the Rooneys believe Cowher likely is going to walk away, and therefore they want to start the process of finding a new coach, in part because their in-house potential replacements, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and assistant head coach/offensive line Russ Grimm, are potential head coaching candidates for other NFL teams.
The Steelers granted permission to two NFL teams to talk to Whisenhunt and Grimm. The Arizona Cardinals will talk to both both coaches while the
Atlanta Falcons will talk to Whisenhunt only. Both teams fired their head coaches on Monday.
The 49-year-old Cowher, whose tenure with the same team is the longest of any current NFL coach, began weighing retirement shortly after the Steelers won the Super Bowl in February. He is signed through 2007 but, for the first time since being hired in January 1992, could not work out an extension.
Expect a decision from Bill Cowher by next Tuesday at the latest. Even though the Steelers would like a quick decision from Cowher about his future, the Steelers were right in giving him time to think about his options.
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Cowher has said several times recently he is not burned out, and there is no indication he would retire if he quits now -- the Steelers themselves anticipate he would be back on an NFL sideline as early as 2008.
Cowher's decision appears tied to family and money. He would like to spend more time at home since his youngest daughter, Lindsay, has only 2½ years of high school remaining. His two oldest daughters, Meagan and Laura, attend Princeton.
The problem: Cowher's wife, Kaye, and Lindsay are now living in a new home in Raleigh, N.C., where Cowher attended North Carolina State and the family has many friends. But the Steelers aren't interested in having Cowher significantly reduce his presence in Pittsburgh by constantly shuttling back and forth to North Carolina, where he also owns a summer home.
ESPN.com senior NFL writer Len Pasquarelli thinks Bill Cowher already has one foot out the door in Pittsburgh.
To hear Len's analysis of the situation in Steeltown as well as his picks for Wild Card weekend,
Another problem: Cowher, for the first time, seems focused on being one of the NFL's highest-paid coaches in his next contract.
Cowher made about $4 million this season, or about half of what Seattle coach Mike Holmgren is making. The Steelers are giving no indication they are willing to pay any coach $8 million a year.
However, there seems little doubt Cowher could make that kind of money should he retire, work next season as an NFL analyst for a TV network, then sign with another team in 2008 or 2009 after all of his daughters have left home.
NFL Insider Chris Mortensen appears on Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday Night Countdown and SportsCenter. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.