Cowher: Tomlin hiring by Steelers not a total surprise

Updated: February 15, 2007, 7:46 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Bill Cowher, discussing the Pittsburgh Steelers' coaching change for the first time since his resignation last month, can't wait to see how Mike Tomlin does in the job.

When Cowher quit after 15 seasons as the Steelers' coach, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and assistant head coach Russ Grimm were widely considered the front-runners for the job. It was anticipated in Pittsburgh that one would be the next Steelers coach and the other would become an NFL head coach elsewhere.

However, Whisenhunt accepted the Arizona Cardinals' job Jan. 14 without waiting to see if Pittsburgh would hire him, and Grimm was passed over by Pittsburgh for Minnesota defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin.

"I don't know if I was surprised," Cowher said Thursday, after being introduced as an "NFL Today" studio analyst for CBS. "I was watching from afar like everybody else. Whis got his job, and then it came down to Russ and Mike Tomlin and they hired Mike.

"Really, to me, it worked out fine for Russ, and I wish the Steelers nothing but the best," Cowher said.

Once Tomlin was hired, Grimm asked out of the final year of his Steelers contract and accepted the same position he had in Pittsburgh with Arizona. He will coach the offensive linemen there, as he did in Pittsburgh.

Cowher was happy the Steelers retained Dick LeBeau as defensive coordinator and promoted Bruce Arians from receivers coach to offensive coordinator. He made no mention of the Steelers not giving a second interview to Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey, whom he recommended as a possible successor.

Cowher said his new job will allow him to remain plugged in to what the Steelers are doing, even though he has moved from Pittsburgh to a new home in Raleigh, N.C. He will not be in NFL stadiums on Sundays, but will work from CBS' studio in New York.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how everything unfolds," Cowher said. "There's a lot of work to be done there with free agency, (deciding on) starters" and other offseason business.

Cowher understands he will be forced to critique and, perhaps, criticize some of his former Steelers players on the air, but doesn't expect that to be a problem.

"I'll always have respect for the players," Cowher said.

Cowher understands there is considerable speculation in Pittsburgh that he will sit out a year, then return as the highly paid coach of a different team -- but cautioned that might not happen.

"I'm looking forward to it (TV work) and it may go beyond this year," Cowher said. "I know there are a lot of questions on what I plan on doing a year from now. ... I know that my daughter (Lindsay) is a high school sophomore. I can tell you I'm not planning on doing anything and walking out of her life again."

Still, he did not rule out coaching again, especially after the youngest of his three daughters finishes high school in two years. Even then, Cowher would be only 51, still relatively young for an NFL head coach.

"At that point, it may be something I find that gives me the opportunity to still be a part of the National Football League," he said.

By joining CBS, which televises AFC games, Cowher finds himself as a dueling analyst with one of his former players, NBC commentator Jerome Bettis.

Last summer, Bettis predicted during one of his first telecasts for NBC that Cowher would leave the Steelers following the 2006 season. Bettis based his opinion on an end-of-season talk with Cowher shortly after the Steelers won the Super Bowl in February 2006.

Cowher understands why Bettis may have felt the way based on that conversation, but Cowher said he became excited and was eager to coach again as training camp approached.

When he spoke to Bettis in March, Cowher said, "We were going through the whole post-Super Bowl situation."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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