PITTSBURGH (AP) — Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson was hospitalized on Friday after being severely burned during an early morning fire at his home in a Pittsburgh suburb.
Authorities say the fire broke out around 3 a.m. in the kitchen of Wilson’s home in Seven Fields, about 30 minutes north of the city. Flames were visible to firefighters when they arrived on the scene, according to Cranberry Township director of Public Safety Jeffrey Schueler.
The 50-year-old Wilson, in his fifth season with the Steelers, was taken to a hospital before being airlifted to UPMC Mercy Hospital for treatment. His condition was not immediately available. The cause of the fire has not been determined and remains under investigation.
Wilson will not travel with the team on Sunday when the Steelers face Denver in the first round of the AFC playoffs. Offensive assistant Harold Goodwin worked with the running backs during Friday’s practice.
Steelers president Art Rooney II said he was “saddened” by the news.
“We know that he has the best medical care in the country treating him,” Rooney said in a statement posted on the team’s website. “The entire organization is praying for Kirby to have a full recovery and we will be by his side through this difficult time.”
UPMC Mercy has the area’s only Comprehensive Burn Center. It’s the same hospital where quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was treated following a motorcycle crash in 2006.
Wilson, who is from Los Angeles, played running back and wide receiver at Illinois before playing briefly in the Canadian Football League. He served as running backs coach in New England, Washington, Arizona and Tampa Bay before joining the Steelers when head coach Mike Tomlin took over in 2007.
Popular with the players because of his high-energy approach, Wilson guided running back Rashard Mendenhall to consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and spent this week helping third-year back Isaac Redman get ready for his first playoff start after Mendenhall was lost for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee.
“He’s really taken me from a practice-squad running back to a running back that’s capable of playing in this league,” Redman said of Wilson. “He had a lot to do with my development, being able to recognize defenses and being able to be just a complete professional in how I go about my life every day.”
The players were alerted to Wilson’s condition during a team meeting Friday, and his players realized something was amiss when Wilson – a notoriously early riser – was not at the facility looking at film.
Veteran wide receiver Hines Ward said he doesn’t believe Wilson’s condition will be a distraction.
Redman, who made the practice squad as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Bowie State in 2009 before being elevated to the 53-man roster last season, hopes to pay tribute to the coach who turned him into a professional.
“We’re going to fight and we have a little more incentive to go out and get this win, to get the win for him,” Redman said.