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Former longtime Steelers publicist Kiely dies

| Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, 7:51 p.m.

Ed Kiely, a longtime aide to Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr., a former team publicist and important behind-the-scenes figure as the franchise segued from a perennial loser into a Super Bowl champion, died on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014.

Mr. Kiely was pivotal in many of the key decisions that helped shape the Steelers, and the NFL, for decades: the first network TV contract in 1962 that divided revenues equally among all franchises; the adoption of the steel industry logo as the Steelers' own; and the hiring of magazine writer Myron Cope as a radio analyst.

Francis Edward Kiely, previously of Pittsburgh, passed away of complications of pneumonia at the home of his daughter, Kathleen Kiely, in the District of Columbia. He was 96.

Steelers chairman Dan Rooney said Mr. Kiely was influential in teaching him the ways of the NFL as he became involved in the team's operations in the late 1950s. Mr. Kiely long accompanied Art Rooney to many league functions

“Ed Kiely was very close to our entire family, especially my father,” Dan Rooney said in a statement. “He was a very good person and did a lot for the Steelers organization over many decades. 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.”

When Mr. Kiely was well into his 90s, he still attended daily Mass followed by workouts in the Steelers training facility in the South Side, where team members jokingly and affectionately dubbed him “Woodrow” because Woodrow Wilson was the president when he was born, Kathleen Kiely said.

“Dad was a very, very devout Catholic, and I think one of the things he and Art Rooney bonded over was they were both daily Mass-goers,” she said.

Mr. Kiely, a Pittsburgh native and graduate of Central Catholic High School, studied journalism at the University of Pittsburgh and was working as a wire service reporter when his career was interrupted by a five-year stint in the Army Air Corps during World War II.

“One of the things that made my dad so well liked was he had a very open personality and a reporter's curiosity. That made him very open and interested in people, and that made him somebody they were drawn to,” Kathleen Kiely said.

He resumed his journalism career when the war ended but soon was recruited by Art Rooney to work for the Steelers, doing everything from writing press releases to advising the elder Rooney on many matters.

He and the Steelers initially drew criticism for the hiring of Cope, whose screechy voice and non-football background proved to be an acquired taste for some listeners. But Cope's knowledge of pro sports, insight and enthusiasm soon made him a fan favorite.

Mr. Kiely, who retired from the Steelers in 1989, also is survived by two sons, Tim Kiely of Atlanta and Kevin Kiely of Edgewood.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Monday in McCabe Brothers Funeral Home, 6214 Walnut St., Shadyside.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Bede's Church in Point Breeze.

Alan Robinson and Michael Hasch are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Robinson can be reached at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib. Hasch can be reached at mhasch@tribweb.com or 412-320-7820.

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