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Cowher is lining up assistant coaches

Adam Schefter of ESPN reported it last week, and Steve Wyche of echoes it today: Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher has been making calls in the hopes of putting together a coaching staff.

Possible additions, in our view, include offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who parlayed his time with Cowher in the 1990s into the Cowboys’ head-coaching job. After Cowher resigned from the Steelers after the 2006 season, wearing his finest Cliff Huxtable throwback sweater, Cowher recommended not Ken Whisenhunt nor Russ Grimm but Gailey to be Cowher’s Steel City successor.

Defensively, it’ll be interesting to see whether Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau chooses to leave the Steelers and reunite with Cowher. Last year, there were rumors that LeBeau was thinking about retirement. Perhaps LeBeau, who has won two Super Bowls in Pittsburgh and who is five weeks away from a near-certain election to the Hall of Fame, is looking for a new challenge.

In past years, Cowher has made similar calls to round up men he’d take with him to a new job, including Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert and Steelers director of business operations Omar Khan. It’s unknown whether Colbert and/or Khan have gotten the call this time around. ESPN reported last month that Colbert ultimately might decide to stay with the Steelers.

But even with Cowher getting ready to return, it remains to be seen whether an NFL team will meet his likely asking price of $10 million per year and surrender the control over the football operation that Cowher covets. It could be that, in order to return for 2010, Cowher will have to compromise on one or both points.

It also would be naive to think that Cowher hasn’t sent out smoke signals to teams that legitimately are in the running for his services. Despite indications that John Fox will return as head coach of the Panthers, Fox’s status is hardly clear -- and a chance remains that he’ll leave with a reduced buyout.