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Old 01-20-2009, 10:46 AM   #1
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Default Whisenhunt still commands Steelers' respect

Whisenhunt still commands Steelers' respect
By Mike Bires
Times Sports Staff
Published: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 12:22 AM EST

PITTSBURGH — Mike Tomlin and Ken Whisenhunt won’t play a down. But as the hype for Super Bowl XLIII begins, they’ll be one of the most intriguing storylines.

Whisenhunt, the coach of the Arizona Cardinals, wanted the job Tomlin landed two years ago. Instead, the Rooney family ultimately decided on the first African-American to coach the Steelers.

As it turns out, things have worked out exceptionally well for Whisenhunt and Tomlin.

“We played those guys last year,” Tomlin said of a 21-14 loss at Arizona. “They are a well-coached outfit. It is obvious that they have a great deal of belief in what they are doing. They are playing great football. You don’t get to this game unless you are.”

When Bill Cowher resigned one week after the 2006 season, the search for a successor was whittled down to three finalists: Whisenhunt, the Steelers’ offensive coordinator; Russ Grimm, Cowher’s assistant head coach/offensive line coach; and Tomlin, the Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator.

When the Rooneys prolonged their decision, Whisenhunt accepted the Cardinals’ job. When the Rooneys chose Tomlin, Grimm followed Whisenhunt to Arizona.

“It’s going to be emotional for us,” tackle Max Starks said. “Those are the coaches I won my last Super Bowl with.”

“Coach ‘Whiz’ is a great guy,” wide receiver Nate Washington said. “I was actually bragging to my mom about what a great guy he is. That goes beyond football and the kind of coach he is. He’s just a great guy. So he still has respect in our locker room and throughout this organization.”

So does Tomlin.

“I feel honored to have played for Coach Cowher,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “I really learned a lot from him. He’s a guy who was been in the league for a long time, very well-respected around the league. Now Coach Tomlin, as a new guy coming in kind of brings a new energy and excitement to this team and it’s really been fun.”

“I love the guy. I’ve loved him since day one,” linebacker James Farrior said. “I knew he was going to lead us the right way.”

For now, Tomlin is downplaying the coaching showdown against Whisenhunt.

“I am just enjoying the moment (of winning the AFC Championship Game) right now,” Tomlin said. “I will have more thoughts on that later.”

The Cardinals (12-9) advanced to the Super Bowl by beating the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game.

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