Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey's handiwork for the Pittsburgh Steelers this afternoon came on the day after he interviewed for the Cincinnati Bengals' vacant head-coaching job. It made for a hectic and difficult but ultimately rewarding weekend, he said.
"It's been emotionally draining,'' Mularkey said in the Steelers' locker room after the club rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Cleveland Browns, 36-33, in a first-round AFC playoff game. "But I'm more proud than I can remember.''
Mularkey became the third candidate outside the organization to interview with the Bengals, following Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis and former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin. Mularkey huddled with Bengals President Mike Brown and other Cincinnati officials in Pittsburgh on Saturday, thanks to a new NFL rule that allows an assistant on a team in the playoffs to have one head-coaching interview in his own city before his club is eliminated.
The Bengals would not be allowed to hire Mularkey until after the Steelers' season ends.
"I didn't change my work week," Mularkey said. "I was probably not as prepared [for the interview] as I might have been. . . . I don't know if it was the right time. I have great respect for the Brown family, but my number one priority is my family in this room."
If what Mularkey told the Bengals on Saturday was lacking, though, what he showed them with his offense's performance today was not. Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox amassed 367 passing yards, and Pittsburgh scored 22 points in the fourth quarter. The final two came on a two-point conversion play the Steelers installed Wednesday, Mularkey said. Rookie wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, a quarterback in college, took the snap in shotgun formation, rolled to his right and completed a pass to tight end Jerame Tuman.
The Bengals might make their decision in the coming days. Two of their assistant coaches, defensive coordinator Mark Duffner and running backs coach Jim Anderson, also are candidates to succeed Dick LeBeau, who was fired last Monday after a 2-14 season.