From the very start of Chuck Noll’s tenure as the Steelers’ coach, the franchise once known for trading away draft picks in bunches began to use it to build a roster that would win four Super Bowls in six seasons. In fact, in Super Bowl XIV, the Steelers became the first NFL franchise ever to win a Lombardi Trophy with a roster containing nobody who never had played for another NFL team.
The Steelers drafted 11 Hall of Fame players under Noll: Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Jack Ham, Mel Blount, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Mike Webster, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Rod Woodson, and Dermontti Dawson.
In October 2006, in an interview conducted by Joe Gordon for the book: “Dan Rooney: My 75 Years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL,” Chuck Noll talked about 10 of those 11 Hall of Fame players (Dawson was not inducted until 2012).
On Joe Greene: “From an attitude standpoint, a desire, he’d do whatever you had to do to win. He was special from a leadership standpoint. Everybody thinks leadership comes from how you talk, but it really doesn’t. Leadership on the field from a football player is how you perform. If you’re a performer, you can be a leader. Joe was an outstanding performer, and he led that way.”
On Terry Bradshaw: “He had the ability to throw the football. He had the ability to run with it when he had to. He had all kinds of physical abilities, and it was just a question of being able to use that on the field. Terry, without a question, wanted to be the best. When you have somebody who has a great desire to be the best, and works at it, which he did … Terry worked at it very hard, both physically and mentally, and spent time in the classroom, and on film, and prepared himself very well.”
On Mel Blount: “No question he had great abilities from the beginning. He had the size, the speed, the ability to cover. The biggest thing with Mel was making sure that he was on the same page with the rest of the defense and would stay in the pattern of defense. He had a tendency to want to go off on his own and sometimes guess a little bit. We weren’t interested in guessers. We wanted to play a good solid defense, where you stayed within the pattern. He adapted to that very well. It ended up being to his benefit.”
On Franco Harris: “The first day he came to camp, you could see his ability to make people miss. His quickness, his ability to run with the football was something that was very special. Franco really had great vision. Every good runner I know has that kind of vision, and he had it right from the start. Not only seeing the holes, but seeing the people. You know, a lot of people come in there and they close their eyes when they’re running into the line, but Franco had his eyes wide open. He could pick the holes, and knew the cuts to make.”
On Jack Ham and Jack Lambert: “They were two outstanding football players. They were talented, had the ability to cover people out of the backfield, speed, size. They had an ability to read an offense and stay in pattern and not make mistakes. That was a big part of the whole thing.”
On Lynn Swann and John Stallworth: “John probably was a little more physical than Lynn, who was a little more athletic and had the ability to run very well after the catch by making people miss. John would break tackles, then run well after the catch. Both complemented one another. Both helped the running game, also, because in order to have the running game go, to make people respect your running game so you can throw the football, they had to block. They blocked downfield, both of them, very well.”
On Mike Webster: “Mike wasn’t tall enough, he didn’t weigh enough, but the thing he had that made the difference was he had great playing strength. You could see it on the field. He would come off the ball with great quickness. I can remember having some films of him against I think it was UCLA, which had these huge, huge tackles. He just destroyed him. Wisconsin moved the ball up and down the field. He not only blocked well on the run, but he also pass protected well.”
On Rod Woodson: “He was something special as an athlete. He had the great speed and the size. The big thing with Rod, just like Mel Blount, was the discipline to stay within the pattern of the defense. He had a tendency to want to freelance a little bit, because he had the ability to do that type of thing. On occasion it was a big play, and on other occasions it hurt you. So, to get him into a disciplined type of player was a big thing.”