Chuck Noll, 1932-2014
Of all the encomiums paid to Chuck Noll since his death Friday night, the one that surely would have pleased him most would be the praise for him as a teacher. For the former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the greatest students of the game of football, became one of its greatest teachers.
Mr. Noll, being laid to rest on Tuesday, was 82. He suffered from back and heart problems and Alzheimer's disease.
Noll was the youngest coach in NFL history when he took over the Steelers in 1969. And fans remember his first season well — an opening win followed by 13 straight losses. But three seasons later, Noll led Pittsburgh to its first playoff game in nearly 40 years. By the end of January 1980, the Steelers had won four Super Bowls; Noll is the only coach to accomplish such a feat.
Noll wasn't a flashy fellow, “not a pizazz guy,” as former Steelers scouting head Art Rooney Jr. put it. No, all the flash and pizazz were channeled into getting the job done, stressing the fundamentals of the game as the foundation for success. That and Noll's philosophy of “whatever it takes” transformed “the same old Steelers” into the “Super Steelers.”
But friends and acquaintances remind that Noll did not live by football alone. He was nothing less than a renaissance man — a lover of fine cuisine and wine who studied French and was a pilot and a sailor.
“No man who wanted to be a great man ever was a great man,” some pundit offered years ago. Charles Henry Noll simply was.