Tunch Ilkin always jokes that the title of the book chronicling his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers would be: "Too Late for the Super Bowls; Too Early for Free Agency." Drafted on the sixth round in 1980 as a center from Indiana State, Ilkin became a starting tackle who played both sides of the line of scrimmage during his 13 years with the Steelers. Ilkin played in consecutive Pro Bowls – 1989 and 1990 – and also was an active member of the NFLPA when it negotiated the salary cap/free agency system still in place today. Reggie White might have finished his Hall of Fame career with 198 career NFL sacks, but he never got one against Tunch Ilkin.
Also during his career, Ilkin was a go-to guy for the team's Community Relations initiatives. "From 1987-90, one of my responsibilities as a member of the Steelers PR Department was to coordinate the team's community relations effort," said Pat Hanlon, now the Senior Vice President of Communications for the New York Football Giants. "Anybody in that role has to have players you can always count on to make themselves available and then to fulfill the commitment. Tunch was that guy. There isn't a church basement in Western Pennsylvania where Tunch hasn't enjoyed a pancake breakfast with a group of Cub Scouts. He never said no. In fact, when I called to ask him if he could make an appearance, it was never a matter of yes or no. It was always yes. So much so that when Tunch picked up the phone and I identified myself, Tunch always said: 'Pat, cut to the chase.' In addition to always agreeing to make appearances in the community, Tunch took the initiative to create his own opportunities to make a difference. In 1988, Tunch and Craig Wolfley wanted to feed underprivileged North Siders during the Thanksgiving holiday. We partnered with Giant Eagle and gave approximately 300 meals away. And as you well know, Tunch continues to this day to make that kind of impact."