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Walt Kiesling

Walt Kiesling
  • Hall of Fame 1966
  • Hall of Honor 2017

Once his NFL playing days ended, Walt Kiesling stayed right where he spent the previous three years as a player, in Pittsburgh but this time as a coach.

Kiesling played guard on offense and defense during his playing years, and dominated games as he was considered to be stronger and tougher than most of the players he went against.

His career began with the Duluth Eskimos in 1926, then the Pottsville Maroons, before joining the Chicago Cardinals where he played from 1929-33 and blocked for Hall of Fame fullback Ernie Nevers. He opened holes for Nevers in a game against the Chicago Bears in 1929 when Nevers scored six touchdowns.

Kiesling, who was named to the NFL's all-league team in 1929, 1930 and 1932, played in Pittsburgh from 1937-39.

Kiesling joined Johnny 'Blood' McNally to be a head coach in 1939 when the team was known as the Pirates, and continued in that role as the team changed their name to the Steelers in 1940. In 1942 Kiesling lead the Steelers to their first winning season in franchise history, finishing 7-4, while winning four of the last five games of the season and outscoring opponents 167-119. He co-coached the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia and Pittsburgh-Chicago Cardinals combined teams during World War II. Kiesling left coaching for a time after the 1944 season, but came back into the fold.

Kiesling returned in 1954 for a three-year stint with the Steelers. Although the team posted three losing seasons, with a combined 14-22 record, they earned a reputation for rugged, hard-hitting football, taking on Kiesling's personality. The one regret Kiesling might have had was when he released future Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas in 1955, after drafting him in the ninth round that same year. Unitas never played in a game, and the Pittsburgh native was released after training camp.

During his 34 years in the NFL as a player, assistant coach and head coach, Kiesling left a big impact. He died in 1962 at the age of 58.