PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – Chuck Noll, the man who forever changed the image and fortunes of the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise, died Friday night at the age of 82.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office reports Noll died of natural causes.
Noll came to Pittsburgh in 1969 replacing Bill Austin as the Steelers head coach.
His first season ended with a 1-13 record, but the win total increased to five wins in 1970 and six in 1971 before a breakout 11-win season in 1972.
That first winning season featured a trip to the playoffs and the first postseason win in Steelers’ history, a 13-7 win over Oakland in the AFC Divisional playoff game, featuring the game-winning “Immaculate Reception.”
The first playoff win began the run of one of the greatest dynasties in sports history as Noll’s Steelers won four Super Bowls in six years from the 1974-1979 seasons.
Noll is still the only coach in NFL history to win four Super Bowls.
Noll retired after the 1991 season with a record of 209-156-1 after 23 seasons and was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.
Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney and President Art Rooney II released statements Saturday reacting to Noll’s death.
Dan Rooney says he thinks Noll ranks as one of the best coaches in the NFL, saying:
“As for the football end of it, I think he ranks with Halas and Lombardi. There are many other good coaches over the history of the NFL, but I think Chuck Noll ranks up there with those other two guys right at the top. No other coach won four Super Bowls, and the way he did it was with dignity. His players were always his concern, both in treating them well and giving them what they needed to succeed on the field.”
In his statement, Rooney also praises Noll’s wife Marianne for not only being a “good friend,” but for helping Noll throughout his illness.
Art Rooney also spoke highly of Noll, saying in part:
“Chuck was a wonderful person in addition to being a great football coach. The positive influence he had on so many people also will be part of his legacy.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Many former Steelers also had much to say in the wake of Noll’s death.
Terry Bradshaw, who had a tumultuous relationship with Noll, said their differences forced him to grow.
“My relationship wasn’t good, as you well know, but he made me understand my job responsibilities, because I had to grow up,” Bradshaw said in a statement. “I came out of an environment with nothing but pats on the back and love. With him it was nowhere near that. I had to go through all the developments emotionally of how to deal with it. He was a tough coach to me, and I spent more time with him than anybody, so I know. I learned how to be mentally tough with him, and for that I can never say thank you enough, because that got me through divorces, Super Bowls, and those times when I had bad moments in big games.”
Steelers star Franco Harris said he was surprised and saddened by Noll’s death.
“These are times when we reflect on all the great memories and the great times that we had,” Harris said. “And there’s no doubt that these memories that we had, probably people consider them the best of times in pro football.”
Other former Steelers players, and Steelers insiders, also reacted to Noll’s death. You can read more from them here.
Stay with KDKA for more on this developing story.
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