Tomlin says Ilkin was a "quality human being" who "will be sorely missed."

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin opened his first press conference of the new season Tuesday by remembering his friendship with former player-turned-broadcaster Tunch Ilkin, who passed away Saturday morning following a battle with ALS.

READ MORE: South Hills Bible Chapel To Hold Celebration Of Life Service For Tunch Ilkin

“I’d like to acknowledge that as you all know, we lost a quality human being in Tunch Ilkin a number of days ago. It was an honor to work with Tunch formally and informally. I had the opportunity to develop a great friendship with him over the years with our formal work here in Pittsburgh, with the Steelers in our roles, and also in informal ways through the community and so forth,” said Tomlin.

Ilkin announced his retirement from the booth in June so that could focus on his ALS treatment. He was diagnosed with ALS in October of 2020.

Tomlin said he’s thought of Ilkin often in the past few days whenever he’s greeted by people. He recalled how when Ilkin was asked how he was doing, he’d always reply with, “better than I deserve.”

READ MORE: Steeler Nation, Pittsburgh Reacts Following The Passing Of Tunch Ilkin

“He will be sorely missed. I appreciate the life that he lived and the friendship he provided not only me but many of us, not only within this organization but this community,” said Tomlin.

Ilkin spent 37 years working in professional football, with 14 years as a player, followed by 23 years working as a broadcaster with the Steelers. As a player, he made the Pro Bowl twice as a Steeler in the 1980s.

He was 63 years old.

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A celebration of life for Ilkin was held Tuesday afternoon.