Pittsburgh Steelers. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Walt Kiesling: So many NFL coaches are men who also played in the league. Johnny Blood McNally was mentioned above. So was Jap Douds. Even today, the lineage of Steelers coaches since 1969 were all former players. Mike Tomlin played college football but never made the pros. Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher, however, both played in the National Football League.
Walt Kiesling also played pro football, taking the positions of guard and tackle from 1926 until he finished his playing days with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1938. Kiesling is also the only head coach in Pittsburgh’s history to take the helm on three separate occasions.
During one campaign in 1943 and 1944, Kiesling split time leading the team with Earle “Greasy” Neale this coming during the infamous “Steagles” season of 1943. Due to a shortage of players because of WWII, the Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles combined franchises for one year and took on that peculiar nickname.
Also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Walt Kiesling could not win more games than he lost while serving as head coach in Pittsburgh. His final record was 30-55-3, but he did have two winning seasons.
Diehard fans of Steelers Nation may remember Kiesling for a bit of history that has left some with a foul taste in their mouths. Pittsburgh native, Pro Football Hall of Fame member, and one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, Johnny Unitas, was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1955. Walt Kiesling was the head coach at the time and publicly denounced Unitas as not having the smarts to play quarterback.
Kiesling had four quarterbacks in training camp competing among those Ted Marchibroda. Unitas became the odd man out and after a stint in semi-pro football in Pittsburgh while working, the Baltimore Colts came calling and the rest is history. For the record, Jim Finks became the starting quarterback in Pittsburgh.
Despite that black mark on his record, Walt Kiesling was still a fine coach and player with 17 seasons on his resume of taking the field. He was named to the 1920s All-Decade Team and made First-Team All-Pro in 1930 as well as playing for the world champion Green Bay Packers in 1936.
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