The family of Mike “Iron Mike” Webster — the first pro football player to be diagnosed with concussion-related brain injuries — may finally be on the cusp of getting paid by the NFL.
A Philadelphia federal judge this week appointed a mediator to resolve claims by roughly 70 families who say the NFL has unfairly cut them out of its $2 billion concussion settlement by refusing to pay for brain injuries to players who died before 2006.
Sources say the appointment of the mediator, arbitrator Diane Welsh, suggests the NFL is eager to pay the families something now rather than spend years tied up in court. The move comes as a court-appointed special master was getting set to rule on whether the 70 families should be included in the concussion settlement.
“Based on how things generally go in civil litigation, when a federal judge sanctions a mediator, it looks like there is a path to resolution,” an attorney who has defended against concussion claims explained.
Webster — a Pittsburgh Steelers center whose story inspired the 2015 film “Concussion” starring Will Smith — died in 2002 at age 50.
In 2004, he was the first ex-NFL player to be diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated hits to the head.
The case kicked off an avalanche of similar diagnoses, which led to allegations by players and their families that the NFL has been concealing from them the dangers of repeated blows to the brain. The NFL settled that case in 2017, but only for players who were diagnosed before 2015 or who died after 2006.
Webster’s family told The Post that they are happy with the move to mediation as it reduces the chances that they get tangled up in court for years to come.
“I feel mediation is probably the quickest way to get things done,” Webster’s son Garrett said.
“Webster should have been the first case and then it should have continued from there,” Garrett Webster said, referring to his family’s long battle for recognition.
Webster’s family members pushed for the Steelers player’s brain to be posthumously analyzed after they witnessed years of bizarre behavior from Webster following his retirement from the NFL. Mike Webster died divorced, depressed and living in his car.
It took several more years before he was diagnosed and then a few more years after that before the diagnosis — by Dr. Bennet Omalu, played by Smith in the film — was taken seriously.
Since agreeing to settle the lawsuit brought by more than 4,500 players and their families in 2017, the NFL has paid out 1,033 awards totaling $717 million with more than another 1,000 cases pending.
Total payouts are expected to rise to $2 billion, more than double initial estimates.
Other families who stand to benefit from the mediation include those of former Steelers players Terry Long and Justin Strzelczyk.
The naming of the mediator comes as the NFL announces its list of 100 greatest players, dubbed the NFL 100 All-Time team. The list, which is slated to come out Friday, could include Webster, a nine-time Pro Bowler and a four-time NFL Super Bowl Champion.
The NFL declined to comment.