The story line that seem so far-fetched a month ago, but became more and more possible since, has arrived:
Ken Whisenhunt and much of his staff will face their old team in Super Bowl XLIII.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have won five titles in their history; one of them came three years ago, when Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator.
“Did you expect anything different?” Whisenhunt said. “How could it have not been the Steelers?”
Then he joked, “It’s just a shame there won’t be many story lines this week.”
Yes, it’s Pittsburgh vs. “Pittsburgh West” in the Super Bowl.
Whisenhunt came of age in Pittsburgh, helping quarterback Ben Roethlisberger grow into a big-time talent.
“I hope our time together contributed a little bit to that,” Whisenhunt said. “He was always very good with me. … I was lucky to have him as a quarterback.”
Whisenhunt had a shot at the Steelers’ head coaching job when he signed on with the Cardinals two years ago.
But the Cardinals’ offer was on the table, and the Steelers were a week away from making their choice, so he took the sure thing.
In taking the Cardinals’ job, Whisenhunt said: “I had a good opportunity. … I had to make the decision.
“I felt I could be successful here, and I was very excited about the opportunity. The one thing I learned is that if you have an opportunity, you have to be very careful about passing things up because you never know if you will get another one.”
Russ Grimm — like Whisenhunt, an assistant with the Steelers — was a finalist in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers ended up picking the young Mike Tomlin.
That allowed Whisenhunt to hire Grimm as his assistant head coach. The result: Grimm has turned around the once-porous offensive line.
Grimm and Whisenhunt were NFL teammates and coaching colleagues.
“We had great success together,” Whisenhunt said. “I know we think a lot alike. He’s been a great part of why we have had success.”
That he, Grimm and other assistants know the Steelers well “can’t hurt us,” Whisenhunt acknowledged. “(But) that team has changed from the two years since we were there.”
This year, “They played a difficult schedule and played a lot of good football. So we know it’s going to be a challenge.
“Knowing the personnel for the most part is a little bit easier because you don’t have to spend as much time doing that. But we have two weeks to prepare so it’s not like we’re in a time crunch.”