Ed Kiely, the former Pittsburgh Steelers’ PR director and a friend and confidant of team founder Art Rooney Sr., died early Thursday morning. He was 96.
Mr. Kiely’s more-than three decades with the team coincided with the National Football League’s transformation from a barely professional confederation of athletic clubs to a corporate powerhouse – and the Steelers’ transformation from a team of perennial losers to a Super Bowl dynasty. He was intimately involved in both transitions.
“Ed Kiely was very close to our entire family, especially my father. He was a very good person and did a lot for the Steelers organization over many decades,” said Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney. “He lived a very successful life as a writer and as a member of the military, before becoming a confidant for my father throughout the years. Personally, he introduced me to many people throughout the NFL in the early days, and I will forever be grateful.”
Mr. Kiely, a Pittsburgh native and an alumnus of Central Catholic High School, negotiated some of the NFL’s first television contracts and pressed for the adoption of the “Steelmark” logo – with the idea of representing his hometown’s signature industry – on Steelers helmets. He helped establish the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and lobbied for the hiring of an improbably raspy-voiced broadcast neophyte named Myron Cope to be the Steelers’ color analyst.
He was married to the late Pat Kiely, one of Pittsburgh’s first female television anchors. She died in 1990.
Francis Edgar Kiely was born in his family’s home in Pittsburgh’s Morningside neighborhood on March 21, 1918. When the Depression left the family short of cash, he picked up work as a newspaper reporter to pay his way through the University of Pittsburgh. He never got his degree; instead, the International News Service gave him a coveted sportswriting job in New York City.
His promising career was interrupted when Mr. Kiely became one of the first Americans drafted into the Army just weeks after the United States entered World War II. He spent the next five years in uniform, during which time he saw combat in the South Pacific and becoming a captain in the Army Air Corps.
Afterwards, Mr. Kiely returned to Pittsburgh to help care for his ailing father. He resumed work as a sportswriter there but was quickly wooed away by Rooney. He became the Steelers owner’s chief press adviser, gatekeeper, and travelling companion.
After retiring from the Steelers in 1989, Mr. Kiely remained a fixture around the organization. He showed up almost daily, first at Three Rivers Stadium and then at the team’s South Side facility when he was well into his 90s, sometimes dispensing advice to players while riding a stationary bike in the training room and then often gossiping with reporters in the media room.
Mr. Kiely is survived by three children: Kathleen of Washington; Timothy of Atlanta; and Kevin of Pittsburgh, and two grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to Catholic Charities, or the Capital Caring Hospice in Falls Church, Virginia. Visitation will be Monday from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. at McCabe Brothers Funeral Home, 6214 Walnut Street, Pittsburgh, PA, 15206. The funeral mass will be at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at St. Bede’s Church in Point Breeze. Burial afterward at Resurrection Cemetery.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter, Kathy, and sons Tim and Kevin, and their entire family during this difficult time,” said Dan Rooney.