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Chuck Noll

Chuck Noll
  • Hall of Fame 1993
  • Hall of Honor 2017
  • Super Bowl IX
  • Super Bowl X
  • Super Bowl XIII
  • Super Bowl XIV

Charles Henry Noll, "The Emperor," truly was the man who changed who the Pittsburgh Steelers were and continue to be.

When he was hired in 1969, the Steelers were a team that had struggled to win in the past. Prior to Noll's arrival the Steelers had just eight winning seasons and had not won a championship. And even in his first season the team went just 1-13.

But it didn't take long for Noll to bring a culture of winning with his style of coaching, a style that was about teaching and developing a group of players who would soon become legends.

Under Noll the Steelers won four Super Bowl championships in a six-year span - Super Bowls IX, X, XIII and XIV.

Noll led the Steelers to 15 winning seasons, nine division championships, and 12 playoff appearances, along with the four Super Bowl victories in the 1970s.

"As for the football end of it, I think he ranks with (George) Halas and (Vince) Lombardi," said Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney Sr. when Noll passed away in 2014. "There are many other good coaches over the history of the NFL, but I think Chuck Noll ranks up there with those other two guys right at the top. No other coach won four Super Bowls, and the way he did it was with dignity. His players were always his concern, both in treating them well and giving them what they needed to succeed on the field."

Noll won 209 games in his 23 seasons with the Steelers, and coached 11 Pro Football Hall of Fame players. And he did it in a manner that is not often seen in sports. He wasn't a rah-rah guy, as his players said he told them they shouldn't need that kind of motivation. He didn't yell and scream. He didn't high-five, hug or embrace players when they made a big play, because that's what he expected from them. But he cared about every player who put on a uniform and went out and played for him.

"Chuck was just the ultimate leader," said Hall of Fame defensive lineman Joe Greene and Noll's first-ever draft pick. "He had truth and belief in what he was saying, and over time all of those things he said were validated, the things about winning football games and being a solid citizen.

"I do know having Chuck as a coach made all the difference in the world in having the career that I had as a Pittsburgh Steeler. I know that early on we went 1-13, and even the year after, when you aren’t having success, it's just hard to put any belief in the coach. After a while when nothing is happening positive for you, I was one of those of those guys who said what we are doing isn't working. Why shouldn't we change? But Chuck never changed. We just got better players and followed his instructions better. That's when I became a believer. Somewhere around the third year I started to see that if we did what he said, then we would win. And if we didn't do it then we wouldn't win. And I became a believer, even before we started to win. I saw the consistency in him and became a believer because of what he said and it became clear that how he was coaching us was the right way. In my time I didn't see him hug a player or embrace a player, but he still loved his players. He wasn't one for showing those kinds of emotions. But I watched him, and I saw him show his appreciation for his players and for his team in a very quiet and subtle way."

Noll was a humble man, one who would rather talk about his love of flying than football, and one who never took credit for the success he brought to the Steelers, even when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

"The single most important thing we had in the Steelers of the 1970s was an ability to work together," said Noll during his acceptance speech. "The thing that stuck out was we had a lot of people who didn't worry about what somebody else did. If someone else was having a tough time on a particular day, they reached down and got it up a little more. They got the thing done. Whatever they had to do, they did to win. There was never a reason to let down.

"Right now you hear about teamwork and it's defined as 50-50, and that is a falsehood. There's no such thing as 50-50. You do whatever you have to do as part of the team. You may have to carry somebody.

"I can't tell you how much you gain, how much progress you can make, by working together as a team, by helping one another. You get much more done that way. If there's anything the Steelers of the '70s epitomized, I think it was that teamwork."