Chuck Noll, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowls in the 1970s was a legend both on and off the field as a coach and more importantly as a man. He died Friday at the age of 82 according to numerous reports out of Pittsburgh, CNN and the Associate Press. Though a Cleveland native, he made his mark in Pittsburgh and will be laid to rest Tuesday where he coached his beloved Steelers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were possibly the most prepared team in their era because of Noll’s knowledge and style. Some coaches were starting to use computers and other electronics at the time, and some passed down complicated game plans to assistants and interns. Noll did not. He would always work his weekly preparations himself by hand.
Tom Donahoe who worked as a scout for Chuck and later as the top personnel man in the front office in Noll’s final eight seasons said the first thing that comes to mind when you look at his career is that nobody has achieved what he did better and with more humility and less ego. “Coaches talk forever that you can’t get too high with the highs or low with the lows, but nobody does it. Chuck did it.”
One summer during the annual Steelers preseason training camp, Chuck conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on the grounds of Saint Vincent College. The man did so with the same gusto and aplomb that Chuck Noll brought to coaching the Steelers for 23 legendary seasons.
Steelers Owner Dan Rooney said “He never won Coach of the Year until 1979, but he didn’t care about those things.” Knoll supposedly “did what he felt was right,” and it obviously carried down the line to his entire team. He was a coach who continuously was obsessed with the fundamentals of the game. A famous quote of the Steeler’s great was that “This game is blocking and tackling,” and to Chuck that was playing footbal the way it was intended to be played from the beginning.
Broncos coach John Fox said “I think he’s the greatest guy I’ve ever been around. He was very calm, very technique- and fundamental-oriented. He was not a screamer. I think his biggest thing is that he was the same guy every day. He was not an ego guy like, ‘Look what I’m doing.’ He was a great mentor, I know that.”
Fox went on to say that Noll was the best technique coach he had ever seen. He was a man focused on not so much the want to play football but how to play the game properly. An attitude that was reflected on all of his teams and ultimately taught many the fundamental needed to succeed in the National Football League. It has been said that if the Hall of Fame coach did know an aspect about something, he would get a couple books and read up on it so that he was full knowledgeable on the topic.
Noll took over a franchise that had been a complete joke on the playing field. The Steelers up until 1970 had been in only one playoff game and it lost at that. Pittsburgh made the playoffs in only his third season, 1972. In 1974, his fifth season, they had won their first of four Super Bowls in six years, a duration of success has yet to be equaled in the game’s 49 years.
A total of nine players from his legendary 1970’s “Iron Curtain” Steelers went on to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 1993, Chuck was elected as well. It was his first year of eligibility. Below is a portion of his hall of fame speech. He coached the Steelers from 1969 to 1991 and accumulated an overall record of 209 wins, 156 losses and 1 tie. Noll was a legend of a man who coached his teams to four Super Bowls, never once losing when reaching the finals either, a mark that may never be broken.
By B. Taylor Rash