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Steelers RB coach Wilson leaving for Vikings

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By Alan Robinson
Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, 6:57 p.m.

Kirby Wilson is trading Le'Veon Bell for Adrian Peterson.

Wilson, the only running backs coach the Steelers have had under coach Mike Tomlin, was given permission Saturday to leave for another job, according to a source with knowledge of the move.

Wilson was passed over for the Ravens' offensive coordinator job but is expected to join new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer's staff. Wilson would succeed former running backs coach James Saxon, who was not retained by Zimmer, the former Bengals defensive coordinator.

Wilson was running backs coach in Washington in 2000 under new Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner. The Vikings have not yet announced the Wilson hiring.

Wilson, 52, had a second interview Friday for the Ravens' job, but Baltimore's finalists are receivers coach Jim Hostler and Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

Wilson was in line to become Steelers offensive coordinator but was so badly burned in a house fire two days before a playoff loss to Denver in January 2012 that he was placed in a medically induced coma.

After Bruce Arians was let go shortly after that loss, the Steelers hired Todd Haley as offensive coordinator.

Wilson needed months of recovery before gradually easing back into his job. He had one season remaining on his current contract, so leaving required the Steelers' permission.

Under Wilson, Rashard Mendenhall had a pair of 1,000-yard seasons after being drafted in 2008, and Bell overcame several injuries this season to break Franco Harris' team record for scrimmage yards in a season.

But forced at times to use low-round draft picks or non-drafted players such as Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, the Steelers rushed for 1,383 yards this season — their fewest since 1965, when they played only 14 games. Their 1,537 yards in 2012 were their third-fewest since the 1970 NFL merger.

Wilson is the second Steelers offensive assistant to leave since the season ended. Jack Bicknell Jr. was fired as offensive line coach after one season and was replaced by former Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak. Last year, Scottie Montgomery left the Steelers for Duke and was replaced as wide receivers coach by Richard Mann.

In Minnesota, Wilson would coach Peterson, who has 10,115 yards rushing since breaking into the league in 2007. No other NFL runner has gained even 8,000 yards.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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