New Biography Reveals Man Behind Legendary Steelers Coach Chuck Noll

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — People in Pittsburgh know Chuck Noll.

He was a legendary coach and the architect of the Pittsburgh Steelers storied success.

Few actually know the real man behind the Steelers’ legend though. But a new biography is giving an inside look into Noll’s life, legacy and personal battle.

To the public, Chuck Noll was a towering figure in professional football. He was the man who transformed the lowly Pittsburgh Steelers, and molded them into four-time Super Bowl champions.

But, as a man, he was intensely private, and even former players and assistants felt they never really knew him or what made him tick.

That’s why Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney sought out author Michael MacCambridge to tell the whole story.

“I told him, ‘Mr. Rooney, I’ll look into it, but it’s got to be something more than he was a very good football coach.’ And I remember, Dan said, ‘You look into it, you’ll see,’” said MacCambridge.

The pages of “Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work” reveal a man of two natures. The stern and often-distant football coach, and the private man of culture – a history buff, wine connoisseur and pilot.

A self-made made man who was shaped early on by adversity.

His family was poor, his father had Parkinson’s disease, and he, himself, had epilepsy. But being of tough German stock, he learned early on not to complain or wear his heart on his sleeve.

“He grew up in a family in Depression-era Cleveland that did not spend a lot of time discussing their feelings. There were no Oprah shows going on in the Noll family household in the ‘30s and ‘40s,” says MacCambridge.

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But despite his lack of size, he strove to be the very best. Teammates called him “the pope” because he was infallible in his knowledge of football. Later, he would reign over the Steelers, and Myron Cope dubbed him the “Emperor Chaz.”

“He had this aura, if you will, about him. He was just regal,” said Tunch Ilkin, a former Steelers player.

But even if his players never had that heart-to-heart or got that slap on the back, Ilkin said he showed his concern in his role as teacher who taught football and much more.

“You got an education in football, but you also got an education in life,” said Illkin, a former Steeler. “It was very important to him that you would be a good husband and a good father and a good man in the community. There were many life lessons learned under his tutelage.”

In many ways, Noll himself was like a steel curtain, but this book peers behind it, giving an illuminating look at the private man and the reasons he was able to achieve greatness.

MacCambridge tells the “KDKA Morning News” that Noll has made a lasting impact not only on the Steelers, but the city as a whole.

“It’s worthwhile to remember that before he was hired, the Steelers were the least successful franchise in pro football. Since he was hired, they have been the most successful franchise in pro football…obviously, he didn’t win those last two Super Bowls that the franchise won, but he sort of put the template in place that has existed since 1969,” says MacCambridge.

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