Legendary former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll passed away on Friday evening at the age of 82.
Noll, the Hall of Fame coach, took the moribund franchise from the basement to the penthouse, winning four Super Bowls in the 1970s with quarterback Terry Bradshaw, fullback Franco Harris and the famed “Steel Curtain” defense. But Noll often eschewed the spotlight, and was the perfect coach for the blue-collar city.
According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Noll was pronounced dead at around 9:55 PM ET after his wife, Marianne, found him unresponsive 10 minutes earlier and called paramedics. Noll reportedly was being treated for an undisclosed illness.
“Chuck Noll is the best thing to happen to the Rooneys since they got on the boat in Ireland,” Art Rooney Jr., the oldest son of Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr., once said, according to the Tribune-Review.
Here is the Tribune-Review on Noll as “reluctant celebrity”:
Noll was a perfectionist and loved to teach, those who worked with him said.
“He was really knowledgeable about any and all things,” said Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, who hired Noll in 1966 to be a member of his staff with the Baltimore Colts. “We used to kiddingly call him Knute Knowledge,” a nod to former Notre Dame great Knute Rockne, considered one of the greatest football coaches of all time.
Rooney Jr., who headed the Steelers’ scouting department from 1971-86, likened Noll to “the toughest professor you ever had.”
“He was not a pizzazz guy. He knew where he was, where he was going and where he wanted to go and how to do it,” Rooney Jr. said. “He had a very, very strong moral compass. … My dad respected that.”
Noll was a reluctant celebrity and turned down only one interview request, longtime Steelers publicist Joe Gordon said. That came from Howard Cosell.
“He never really considered Cosell a serious journalist,” Gordon said. “Any other time, regardless of the circumstances, he was always accommodating.”
Noll rejected many offers to appear in commercials, some of which could have been financially lucrative, Gordon said.
“He preferred to be a football coach and not a celebrity,” Gordon said. “After a while, they stopped calling because they knew he wasn’t interested. If he would have had his way, after the game on Sunday, he would have just picked up his briefcase and gone home.”
Noll was loyal to his assistants and those who worked around the team at Three Rivers Stadium, said former defensive assistant coach George Perles.
“He always took the grounds crew people on the plane to away games and the families to the championship games,” he said.
Read more from the Tribune-Review here.