PITTSBURGH – He picked up the Pittsburgh Steelers from the bottom of the pile, but when Chuck Noll finished with them, they had become a fearsome powerhouse. The iconic coach, who led the team to four Super Bowl victories, died late Friday at 82.
Noll was the only coach to take the NFL championship that many times.
Family was by his side, when Noll passed away of natural causes at his home in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh, the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, medical examiner’s office said. He had suffered from Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
“Steeler Nation lost one of the greatest coaches in history,” former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward wrote on Facebook.
Rod Woodson, former Steelers cornerback, said on Twitter that “he was a great coach and man! It was an honor to play for such a legend!”
His Super Bowl triumphs are the tip of the iceberg of the winning legacy Noll left behind.
When he took over the helm of the Steelers in 1969, the team had not won a single title in nearly 40 years, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which inducted Noll into its ranks in 1993.
During his first year as head coach, the team floundered to a season close of just one win and 13 losses. But Noll honed in on the yearly player draft and pulled top talent from college programs into the pro team.
His became an era marked by heroic football names of fellow Steelers Hall of Famers like quarterback Terry Bradshaw, voracious defensive tackle “Mean” Joe Greene and running back Franco Harris, whose career rushing yards went down as the third highest in NFL history.
By 1972, the Steelers’ fortunes turned, when they won their first-ever division title, the AFC Central championship. They went on to win eight more during Noll’s stint of 23 seasons, which ended in 1991.
His overall head coaching record: 209 wins, 156 losses and one tie.
Noll began his pro football career in the 1950s, playing as a guard and linebacker for the Cleveland Browns. He was assistant coach with the LA/San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Colts before arriving in Pittsburgh, according to his Hall of Fame biography.
Noll and the Steelers took their first Vince Lombardi Trophy after beating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX in January 1975. Within six years, the team swept the top spot four times.
The Steelers have gone on to win two more Super Bowls for a league record of six championships.