Colin Dunlap: Few Do, But Noll Deserves Statue
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Only the best of the best should be memorialized with a statue.
Chuck Noll was the best of the best.
It’s time — past time, actually — that the former Steelers coach is celebrated in a such a big, bronze manner.
This shouldn’t just happen; it needs to happen.
Noll died on Friday evening in Sewickley after battling myriad health ailments over the better part of the last few decades.
He was 82.
He was also a legend.
He was also a man who never once tooted his own horn — let alone advocated that he should be remembered with a statue — so I will do it for him.
It seems in our sports landscape in the fabulous town of Pittsburgh, we are in the business of making damn sure future generations can have link to the past by casting some bronze, finding a pleasant likeness and then forming a statue remembering people who have reached incredible heights on our playing surfaces.
To wit: When visitors land at our airport, they are greeted by a statue of Franco Harris reeling in the Immaculate Reception.
Penguins great Mario Lemieux is immortalized — as he skates voraciously through the defense — near the CONSOL Energy Center with a brilliant statue.
Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Honus Wagner and Willie Stargell have their high level of achievement forever remembered in sculptures that flank PNC Park.
And near Heinz Field, the patriarch of the Steelers is reminisced, as an Art Rooney figure perfectly befitting The Chief is seated, with a cigar in his right hand, an overcoat draped over one leg and a welcoming half-smile flashed across his face.
In relation to the other men in his profession, Noll achieved at a level exceeding most — if not all — of those other men who have statues in our city.
Noll served as Steelers head coach for 23 seasons (1969-91) and won four Super Bowls. He guided the Steelers from a laughingstock to a dynasty; such a statement includes absolutely zero hyperbole.
Noll pushed the Steelers from an organization which it was hard giving tickets away to for games into one where it is virtually impossible to find your way into the stadium without having a connection or two. That is the kind of man who should have a statue in his honor, no question.
Noll compiled a 209-156-1 record and the four Super Bowl titles and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993, his first year of eligibility. Noll epitomized the definition of a first-ballot entrant, as you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who felt as if he didn’t belong immediately.
Former Steelers defensive back Rod Woodson — who played for the organization from 1987-’96 — perhaps summed things up in the most grand form as he appeared on NFL Network and spoke of his former coach.
“Without Chuck Noll and those Lombardi trophies that he got when he was there … ” Woodson continued, “You wouldn’t talk about the black-and-gold the same way if Chuck Noll was not there.”
No, we wouldn’t. None of us would. The Steelers wouldn’t exist in their much-revered capacity the way they have without Noll.
For all of this, we remember Chuck Noll as, simply, a legend.
And it is time to have that remembrance in the form of a statue in this great city.