It has been exactly one week since the death of former Pittsburgh Steelers great Chuck Noll at 82-years-old, and the world marches on with its daily duties. However, The Shadow League felt it necessary to give this man his props.
In addition to being a HOF coach with a great reputation, Chuck Noll was also a staunch proponent of diversity in the NFL decades before it was a popular stance to take. Joe Gilliam became the NFL’s first Black starting quarterback under Noll as he would start briefly for Terry Bradshaw during the 1974 season. If it wasn’t for alcoholism and drug abuse Gilliam may have remained the starter over Bradshaw, but history tells a different story.
Also under Chuck’s watch, Franco Harris became the first African-American player to win the Super Bowl MVP. On the sidelines, Noll was former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy’s biggest supporter in the '80s. He initially became the Steelers’ Defensive Backs Coach and later became the first African-American defensive coordinator in the NFL. Although Noll felt that Dungy was a strong head coaching candidate he was passed over for Bill Cowher upon Chuck’s retirement in 1991. Today, the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is an African-American and the NFL’s rule on coaching diversity is named after team owner Dan Rooney. Noll died of natural causes on June 13, 2014 and was interred on June 14, 2014. He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease late in life.
He was one of the winningest coaches in the history of the NFL having won four Super Bowls in the 1970s. A lifelong practitioner of this brutal art form since the time he was a young man at Benedictine High School in Cleveland, Ohio, where he would become an All-State running back, and later at the University of Dayton, Noll would be drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1953. But his career on the field would only last six years and he would retire from playing in 1959. It was on the sideline where he would hone his hall of fame pedigree.
Noll would become a defensive line coach for the San Diego Chargers of the American Football League in 1960 and would follow that up with a stint with the Baltimore Colts of the NFL in 1966 as a defensive coordinator prior to being named head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969 after the position was turned down by Penn State’s Joe Paterno. He developed quickly as a HC and had the utmost respect from his squad. It would take him only five years to win his first Super Bowl as he and a Steeler’s squad led by Terry Bradshaw, Jack Lambert, Franco Harris and Lynn Swan won Super Bowl IX in 1974. He would follow that up with a win in Super Bowl X (1975), Super Bowl XIII (1978) and Super Bowl XIV (1979). The Pittsburgh Steelers' vaunted Steel Curtain defense was the pride of the '70s and their rock ‘em, sock ‘em style of play gained them a loyal fan base that persists in numbers and voracious allegiance until this day.
He would retire from the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1991 after several subpar seasons in a row. His last post season appearance was a one point loss to the Denver Broncos in 1989. His post season record stands at 16-8 while his regular season record is 193-148. Not only was he a model football coach but a model American as well. The Terrible Towel will always be waved with pride because of you.
RIP Chuck Noll.