Ken Whisenhunt’s wish was granted Sunday.
The Arizona Cardinals’ head coach, who spent six seasons as a Pittsburgh Steelers assistant, will face his former team Feb. 1 in Super Bowl XLIII.
“Like everyone else, I was a little disappointed that we couldn’t get a Super Bowl matchup with any compelling storylines,” Whisenhunt jokingly said in a statement released by the Cardinals.
“But honestly, it’s unbelievably special that we’re going to the Super Bowl under any circumstances, but now to find out that we’ll be playing the Steelers certainly takes it to another level. Obviously, that organization and the people associated with it hold a special place in my heart. From that standpoint, this is something of a dream scenario for me and many of the other coaches on our staff. I’m happy for Mr. (Dan) Rooney, Coach (Mike) Tomlin and their entire organization. We’re looking forward to a great matchup in Tampa.”
Whisenhunt’s Cardinals defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 32-25 in the first conference championship game of the day, meaning they had to wait to see who they would play in the Super Bowl.
Whisenhunt, who was the Steelers’ tight ends coach from 2001 to 2003 and their offensive coordinator from 2004 to 2006, expressed his hope that Pittsburgh would be the opponent.
“I’m glad we are playing [in the Super Bowl], but the reason I’m here is because of my time with Pittsburgh, and I am grateful for that,” Whisenhunt said before the AFC Championship Game kicked off at Heinz Field.
The Steelers took care of their end in the nightcap with a 23-14 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, who had Whisenhunt on their staff in 1997 and 1998 as a tight ends coach. No word on whether Whisenhunt would have been happy facing the Ravens, too.
Other Cardinals coaches with Steelers ties include assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm, who was a candidate for Pittsburgh’s head-coaching job when it went to Tomlin in 2007; receivers coach Mike Miller; defensive assistant Matt Raich and special teams coach Kevin Spencer. No doubt they will be asked plenty about their Steelers days in the next two weeks.