PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers' dynastic teams of the 1970s lost another great one Friday night when iconic coach Chuck Noll passed away at the age of 82 at his Pittsburgh-area home.
Dubbed “The Emperor” by late Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope, Noll never left any doubt who ruled the teams that won four Super Bowls in six seasons despite dealing with outsized personalities and enough stars that the Steelers players from the 1970s could have their own wing at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Cerebral and often detached from his players, Noll nevertheless commanded their respect and admiration with his attention to detail, devotion to fundamentals and teaching, and his desire to win.
No coach won more spectacularly than Noll in the 1970s, and he did it after going 1-13 in 1969, his first season as the Steelers’ head coach, and with a franchise that had made the playoffs just once in its 36-season history and cycled through coaches at a comical rate.
Noll, incredibly enough, never won an NFL Coach of the Year Award, even though he remains the only coach to win four Super Bowls. Few, if any, coaches in NFL history had a more profound effect on their franchise.
Noll transformed the so-called “same old Steelers” into a standard for greatness. His legacy is still evident, from the national following the Steelers enjoy based in part on their success in the 1970s to the organization’s philosophy of building through the draft and exercising patience with its head coach.
The Steelers have yet to comment on Noll’s passing, but there has to be a profound sense of sadness among those in the organization who will have to say goodbye to a seminal figure from the 1970s for the second time in little more than a month.
Bill Nunn, the longtime scout who convinced Noll during the 1974 draft that the Steelers could select Lynn Swann in the first round and still get John Stallworth later in the draft, died on May 6 of complications from a stroke.
Nunn opened the pipeline to the historically black colleges that the Steelers had too often overlooked while heaping one losing season on top of another. That pipeline helped supply the talent that Noll molded into one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history and the team that defined the 1970s.
The loss of Nunn and now Noll is a painful reminder that time remains undefeated and inexorably marches on. But four decades later, the Steelers remain a model franchise as well as the only one with six Lombardi trophies.
When current Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says, “The standard is the standard,” which is another way of saying nothing less than excellence will be accepted, Charles Henry Noll is a big reason for that.