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Jim O’Brien: Mike Wagner now a safety for well-heeled FNB clients

September 21, 2012

Jim O’Brien: Mike Wagner now a safety for well-heeled FNB clients

By Jim O’Brien, Columnnist, Pittsburgh Business Times

On a clear day Mike Wagner can walk from his office to PNCPark and Heinz Field. So he remains close to the playing fields of Pittsburgh.  He’s had offices before where he could see Heinz Field on the horizon, and before that he enjoyed a close-up view of Mellon Arena.

         It’s been 32 years since he retired from playing safety for The Steel Curtain defensive unit of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he remains interested and involved in the city’s sports scene.  Wagner, at 63, is the vice-president of the Private Banking Group for First National Bank, with headquarters on Federal Street.

         He can walk out the front door and see statues of Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente.  He was starting his career with the Steelers when they played for the Pirates.  He was with the Steelers for ten seasons (1971-1980), four of which they won the Super Bowl. 

         “Fans in this city treat Steelers well, past and present,” he said.  “I’m proud to have played for the Steelers.  I have no complaints.”

         He was an 11th round draft choice in the Class of 1971 that is regarded as the second greatest group in Steelers’ history, right behind the 1974 class that included four future Pro Football Hall of Fame performers (Lambert, Swann, Stallworth and Webster).  He started from the first game of his rookie season, and was regarded as one of the most intelligent, resourceful and sure-handed tacklers in the National Football League.

         He’s one of the best-looking, best-dressed Steelers ever, and he looks like a financial advisor.  At 6-2, 175 pounds, he is still taller than most of the current defensive backs on the Steelers.

         He’s been in the financial world over 30 years.  He started out, with his accounting degree from WesternIllinoisUniversity on his resume, with Russell, Rea and Zappala at TwoNorthShore.

         Former Steelers’ Pro Bowl linebacker Andy Russell recalls those days:  “I think Mike was the best safety the Steelers ever had.  He was intelligent.  He came to work for our investment bank firm, and we sent him through his MBA program at Pitt, and then he really provided us with quality work before going off on another opportunity.”

         Rocky Bleier says of Wagner.  “Mike is a nuts and bolts guy, just like he was with the Steelers.  He’s prepared and he comes to play hard.”

         John C. Williams, the president of First National Bank, has over 40 years in the Pittsburgh banking business.   He hired Wagner.  “Mike has always had a great reputation in our field,” said Williams.  “He has the experience and contacts we can use on our team.”

         Wagner provides personalized services for affluent households.  These customers aren’t looking for autographs.  They are looking for sound financial advice.

         “Having been with the Steelers helps,” said Wagner.  “I’ve worked with some of these people before.  My clients need something and it’s my job to figure out what they would like to have.  What I learned from football is that nothing comes easy.  You have to keep grinding away and good things will happen.  You do the best you can.”

         Wagner admits he remains a highly competitive person.  “Sometimes I have to ratchet that back a bit,” he admitted.

         “You always have a responsibility to whomever you work for, whether it’s the Steelers or some company you represent later on.  You have to protect the brand name, whether it’s UPMC, Highmark, PNC, PPG or US Steel.  That’s just common sense.

         “I’m not sure if there was some statement that told us what was expected of us or something that was in the team playbook as to how we should conduct ourselves, but we knew we stood for the Steelers and that meant something.

         “The Rooney family wanted us players out in public functions representing the team, and helping non-profits raise money.  I had the opportunity to meet a lot of special people in the community and I realized it was important.”

         To that end, Wagner serves on several boards here, at the HeinzHistoryCenter where he helps organize a golf event, EconomicsPennsylvania to teach kids about economics, and the Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh.

         “That was one of Chuck Noll’s favorites,” said Wagner, “so I am still aware of his presence.”

Jim O’Brien has written 20 books in his Pittsburgh Proud series, including “The Chief” and “Steeler Stuff.”  His website is and his e-mail address is

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