Ex-Steelers Assistant Named Head Coach of Pittsburgh’s USFL Team

Kirby Wilson

NFL via Getty Images Kirby Wilson while with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011.

On Thursday January 20, 2022, the Pittsburgh Maulers announced that former Pittsburgh Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson will be their first head coach.

Wilson, 60, is the second ex-Steelers assistant to be named a head coach in the United States Football League (USFL), following on the heels of former Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who will be leading the Tampa Bay Bandits.

Kirby Wilson and Todd Haley Were on Mike Tomlin’s Staff Together

Wilson served as Pittsburgh’s running backs coach between 2007 and 2013 and molded the likes of Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall and Le’Veon Bell. In fact, he was on the same Steelers staff as Haley for two seasons, in 2012 and 2013. He was badly burned in a house fire in January 2012.

Prior to coming to Pittsburgh, Wilson coached the running backs of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals. Since leaving the Steelers he has held the same role with the Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns, the Cardinals (again), and most recently, the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders. He has two Super Bowl rings, one with the Buccaneers and one with Mike Tomlin’s Steelers (Super Bowl XLIII).

“I’m excited to have this opportunity to be a head coach for the first time,” Wilson said in a statement released by the new league. “I didn’t believe it at first, but now that that moment is inching closer and closer, I’m super excited about being a head coach in the USFL. I can’t wait to get out on the field, in the grass with my players and the coaches, and start building a championship football team.”

Wilson launched his coaching career in the 1980s, beginning with a series of positions in the college ranks, including stops at Southern Illinois, Wyoming, USC and Iowa State. He played in the Canadian Football League as a defensive back and kick returner for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Toronto Argonauts between 1983 and 1984.

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The USFL’s Inaugural Season

The USFL will hold a player selection meeting on February 22-23, and training camps will open on Monday, March 21. Each USFL club will have a 38-man active roster plus a seven-player practice squad. The season is scheduled to begin on April 16.

Each team will play a 10-game slate, followed by semifinals between the top two teams in each division, plus a championship game between division winners.

While the USFL is a new, independent football league, a league with the same name—and many of the same team names—operated between 1983-85 before folding in 1986. All eight teams will play in a soon-to-be announced single hub in 2022, though the USFL expects teams to play in their own markets at some point in the future. The USFL’s hub city is expected to be Birmingham, Alabama.

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