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Dan Rooney Reflects On Noll’s Legacy

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(Photo Credit: Ken Levine/Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Ken Levine/Getty Images)

Harold Hayes Harold Hayes
Harold Hayes joined KDKA-TV in August of 1979 as a general assignment...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Steelers and the Pittsburgh community are honoring the life and legacy of former coach, Chuck Noll.

Noll died on Friday at the age of 82.

Now, the Rooney family is speaking about Noll’s passing.

Harold Hayes sat down with Dan Rooney Monday morning.

He described Noll’s passing as a shock, but the conversation turned to the memories of a dynasty he helped to create.

Rooney said he spoke with Noll’s wife and spent time with their family over the weekend.

“It was very sad. I heard about it late – I guess it was Friday night – and I was surprised. Talked to Maryanne about how they had dinner together and things like that and it was a shock. Then, of course the next day, Saturday, Joe Gordon (former Steelers spokesman) and I went over and spent some good time with her,” Rooney said.

The Hall of Fame coach led the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl titles back in the 1970s.

It’s a feat no other NFL coach has accomplished.

So, what was it about Noll the Rooneys saw in him in 1969?

“First of all he came, he was bright. I interviewed him the first time the day after the Super Bowl that they lost. This was Baltimore, they lost to the Jets, and with all that he had control of himself. He knew our players. We had played them earlier and that’s why I was so surprised. He knew the players’ strengths and weaknesses and it just went from there. And I came back and told my father this is the guy we [have to] bring back,” Rooney said.

Hayes: As time went on, your perception of him was right on point, wasn’t it?

Rooney: “Yes. It turned out to be quite a bit and he was a different person. As far as the football is concerned, I rank him right up there with George Halas and Vince Lombardi and maybe even with Vince…There’s, you know, good coaches now, but I don’t think there will ever be another Chuck Noll.”

One interesting aspect of Noll’s philosophy was his scrutiny of potential players’ college transcripts to make sure they took challenging courses.

“He was bright and he saw with his team that you can’t have a lot of dummies and get by with what you needed to get by with and he saw that and he stuck to it. Got Joe Greene, who’s a brilliant guy, was our first pick and went on from there. We had great drafts, put them together and they responded,” Rooney said.

Meanwhile, a makeshift memorial continues to grow outside of Heinz Field as fans stop by to drop off memorabilia, flowers and even a Terrible Towel.

Those winning seasons began at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, which is the summer home of the Steelers.

“Chuck had the capacity to experience defeat without being defeated. He had the capacity to experience victory without letting it go to his head and I think these were important characteristics and behaviors he attempted to communicate with his players over the years as well,” Saint Vincent College Archabbot Douglas Nowicki said.

Noll attended a Benedictine high school and felt at home at Saint Vincent College.

His deep faith and sense of humility often reflected in his quiet, steady style of coaching.

“The era of Chuck Noll greatly influenced the eras to come after him in Steeler history,” Fr. Paul Taylor said.

Steelers fans began the long process of saying goodbye Sunday night as many attended a public viewing.

Some Steelers insiders were also at Noll’s viewing Monday night.

Former Steelers broadcaster Bill Hillgrove talked to KDKA’s Kym Gable about how he feels about Noll’s legacy.

“I think that’s why the foundation was built the way it was,” he said. “And that’s why the bar is set so high here in Pittsburgh. He’s the guy who set it here, everyone else has to live up to it.”

John “Frenchy” Fuqua, a former Steelers running back, was also there Monday night.

“He changed my life both on and off the field,” he said of Noll. “I worked when I retired from the Steelers, because Chuck says life goes on.”

Security officials say they expect a huge crowd at the funeral home and church Tuesday.

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