PITTSBURGH — Chuck Noll, the Hall of Fame coach who won a record four Super Bowl titles with the Steelers, died Friday night at his home. He was 82.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner said Noll died of natural causes.
Noll transformed the Steelers from a long-standing joke into one of the NFL’s pre-eminent powers, becoming the only coach to win four Super Bowls. He was a demanding figure who did not make close friends with his players, yet he was a successful and motivating leader.
The Steelers won the four Super Bowls over six seasons (1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979), an unprecedented run that made Pittsburgh one of the NFL’s marquee franchises, one that breathed life into a struggling, blue-collar city.
“He was one of the great coaches of the game,” Steelers owner Dan Rooney once said. “He ranks up there with (George) Halas, (Tom) Landry and (Curly) Lambeau.”
Noll’s 16-8 record in postseason play remains one of the best in league history. He retired in 1991 with a 209-156-1 record in 23 seasons, after inheriting a team that had never won a postseason game. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.
Noll worked so well with Steelers president Rooney that the team never felt the need to have a general manager. When he retired, and was replaced by Bill Cowher, only four other coaches or managers in modern U.S. pro sports history had run their teams longer than Noll had.
“Chuck Noll is the best thing that happened to the Rooneys since they got on the boat (to America) in Ireland,” Art Rooney II, the former Steelers personnel chief and the son of the team founder, once said.
When he retired, Noll always said he would never coach another team, and he didn’t.
In 2007, the football field at St. Vincent College, the Steelers’ longtime training camp home in Latrobe, was named for Noll, even though he played at and graduated from Dayton.
Born in Cleveland, Noll attended Benedictine High School, where he played running back and tackle, winning All-State honors, before gaining a scholarship to play for the Flyers. He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns — Pittsburgh’s biggest, most traditional rival — in 1953. At 27, he retired as a player from the Browns in 1959.
Photo via Twitter/@ESPNNFL