View Full Version : Chuck Noll is the man behind Steelers' success

02-07-2009, 09:25 PM
Chuck Noll is the man behind Steelers' success
Posted to: Sports Tom Robinson
Tom Robinson
Virginian-Pilot columnist
The Virginian-Pilot
February 8, 2009

After Chuck Noll took over as coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969 - Joe Paterno rejected the job - his first three teams won a dozen games. In the day of the 14-game season, then, Pittsburgh began an inglorious 12-30 under Noll.

Just off the top, I'd say there are few better ways to become an ex-coach than to win barely a quarter of your first 42 games.

But here's the thing about the Steelers: a 28.6 winning percentage over three years wasn't really all that bad - for them. It was more along the lines of "sub-par," because the Steelers for the first 35 years of their life were one seriously putrid NFL franchise.

I'll try to go easy with the assault of numbers. Just understand that the Steelers - they were the Pirates from 1933 to '40 - from their birth until '68, won more games than they lost in a season just seven times.

Say what you will about ownership's famous patience with Noll, a patience long gone from sports by the way, but come on. What did the Steelers know about NFL success, except that it belonged to others?

Noll, of course, eventually made the investment in him pay interest that compounded again last weekend with Pittsburgh's record sixth Super Bowl title in 30 years.

Coach Mike Tomlin rightfully deserves his praise for shepherding his second Steelers squad to the top through a bone-shaking schedule and challenging injury circumstances.

The same, obviously, of Bill Cowher, who over 15 years won the '06 Super Bowl, nine division titles and 62 percent of his regular-season games. So, too, for the Rooney family that has famously hired just those three head coaches in 40 years, a staggering fact.

But we should remember that every triumph the Steelers have had, and any they will have, traces to Noll, who brought light and life to a barren land.

In 23 years, from the time he was age 37 to 59, Noll laid a foundation of selfless effort and punishing defense that constitutes the Steeler Way. Cowher, with his jutting chin and scowl, and Tomlin, with his intense glare, were natural successors in the House of Noll that finds itself dressed in confetti once again.

It's far from coincidence. Everybody knows what a Steeler is, and what is expected of a Steeler. The athletes who come to play in Pittsburgh understand, as do all wavers of Terrible Towels.

What's a Cowboy? A Lion? A Seahawk? It's all over the map. By and large, a Steeler presents one mental picture: that of a football player playing football hard and rugged and leathery. The more mud and snow flurries, the better.:tt03::tt03:

That's Noll.

Noll's leadership kicked in in 1972, when the Steelers won 11 games for the first time, and it cemented two years later when they won the first of four Super Bowls in six years.

The real jump-start came from Pittsburgh's legendary 1974 draft class that included Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster. The Steelers drafted Mean Joe Green in '69, and quarterback Terry Bradshaw arrived because the Steelers won a coin flip for the top pick in 1970.

Those men were the heart of it, and they're all in the Hall of Fame. The head of it, also in the Hall, is 77 now and living purposely out of the spotlight. Noll coached the same way.

For him, the Steelers' play did the talking. That voice remains firm and strong.

Tom Robinson, (757) 446-2518, tom.robinson@pilotonline.com

(I could not agree with this article more. Noll defined what a Steeler is. - mesa)

02-08-2009, 09:01 AM
Chuck Noll is the man.....always will be. Thanks for the post.

02-08-2009, 09:16 AM
Nice article...Grew up idolizing the great Chuck Noll