The Steelers have called a news conference for 1 p.m. tomorrow to announce that Bill Cowher, who led the team to 10 playoff appearances, eight division titles and a Super Bowl victory, will resign after 15 seasons as head coach, sources have told the Post-Gazette.
Cowher, 49, will fly to Pittsburgh tomorrow morning to attend the news conference and announce the decision that has been expected for several weeks, if not longer: That he will resign, at age 49, to spend more time with his family.
Cowher had planned to return to town and make the announcement Monday, but he called team chairman Dan Rooney this afternoon to tell him he didn't want to wait any longer.
The Steelers will immediately begin the search to find his successor. Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, one of the leading candidates to replace Cowher, interviewed today with the Atlanta Falcons and owner Arthur Blank. Offensive line coach Russ Grimm, who is also the team's assistant head coach, is scheduled to interview with the Falcons next week.
Cowher has one year remaining on a contract that paid him between $4.5 million and $4.7 million this season. He said last week he still loves to coach and is not "burned out" from being the longest-tenured head coach in the National Football League. However, he wants to take at least a one-year break from coaching and is not thinking about joining any other team in 2007, whether in the NFL or college football, sources said.
Those same sources have also said Cowher's decision to retire has nothing to do with money and that he is committed to spending the next year with his wife, Kaye, and youngest daughter, Lindsay, in Raleigh, N.C.
But those who know Cowher wonder how long he will stay in "retirement" because he is an intense competitor who loves to coach. When his contract with the Steelers expires after 2007, he will be free to sign with another team, without compensation to the Steelers, and will likely attract offers that make him the highest-paid coach in the NFL.
Seattle's Mike Holmgren is believed to be the league's highest-paid coach, making $7 million this season and $8 million in 2007.