Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Wilson was just two days away from being on the sideline against the Broncos in Denver. Instead, he spent the better part of the new year in the hospital, recovering from second and third degree burns to nearly half his body.
January 6, 2013 will mark the one year anniversary of the house fire that nearly cost Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson his life.
The fire broke out in the early morning hours, and he suffered severe burns to nearly half of his body just two days before the Steelers would head to Denver for a wild card round playoff game against the Broncos.
Despite it ultimately being a losing effort, Wilson missed running back Isaac Redman put up one of the finest performances of his career, rushing for 121 yards on 17 carries.
But the dramatic performance came from Wilson himself; he was back on the Steelers' sideline for training camp eight months later, and coached the Steelers throughout the 2012 season.
Wilson has a lot of work cut out for him in 2013 and beyond. The Steelers running game slipped to depths it hasn't seen in a while (just 96.1 yards a game, 26th in the NFL), and its leading rusher - Jonathan Dwyer - had 613 yards, the lowest amount to lead the Steelers in rushing since Merril Hoge's 610 in 1991.
Chuck Noll retired after that 1991 season, and the Steelers reinvented their running scheme behind a pulling concept from their center (Hall of Famer Dermontti Dawson) and a new running back, Barry Foster.
Such wholesale changes don't appear to be on the horizon in Pittsburgh, but perhaps with Wilson around healthy and not in the hospital, and with a year of experience working with offensive coordinator Todd Haley, the Steelers can find the same sort of strength in running the ball the way they did from Weeks 7-9, when they were averaging over 140 yards per contest.
Surviving those odds pales in comparison to the odds Wilson overcame just in getting back to the meeting room.
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