Fans, city enjoyed connection with Noll
Everyone has a Chuck Noll story.
There's the time he dropped off Christmas goodies to a Catholic high school. And when he visited ailing fans in a hospital. Or when he stopped to talk in a restaurant foyer. And pose for pictures before a commercial flight.
“He was a real person,” said Patricia Jeffries, 74, of the Hill District. “Steelers were Steelers back then. None of this showboating nonsense. What they did on Sunday was personal. He was everyone's coach, even mine.”
Mexico natives Laura and Alonzo Fernandez of Texas parked by a sparse memorial outside Gate B at an empty Heinz Field. Two white votive candles pinned down a Terrible Towel beside a posterboard reading, “Gone but not forgotten,” with messages scribbled below.
Fernandez, 43, insisted they stop. Her husband, a 42-year-old Dallas fan, begrudgingly agreed.
“I fell in love with the Steelers in the 70s, when (Noll) was here,” she said. “The kind of love you have for your team — the coaches, the players — it's something that you feel, and there's nothing you can do about it.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and U.S. Senator Bob Casey sent more public condolences.
“(Noll) leaves behind a great legacy,” Casey wrote. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.”
The team banked its first four Super Bowl wins between Peduto's fourth- and ninth-grade years. Those wins were hugely transformative, he said.
“Chuck Noll epitomized the glue that held that team together,” Peduto said. “You had a lot of different personalities, a lot of great athletes, but it was about more than what they did on the field. You had a leader who was quiet, well-respected and had a certain reverence. There will never be another coach like him.”
When he was a young priest, Bishop David Zubik said he met Noll a few days after the Steelers won their fourth Super Bowl.
“Far beyond his coaching abilities and phenomenal success, what struck me most then, and continues to now, about Chuck Noll is his rock foundation of humility,” Zubik said. “To my mind, he was never about Chuck Noll. He was always about others. That humility makes him a role model for all — both young and old.”
Wearing a black Jack Lambert jersey, Darrell Bey, 37, recalled Sundays at his grandmother's house in Wilkinsburg, learning plays and colorful curse words in equal measure.
“I was really little in the Super Bowl years, so I remember a lot of his bad years, too. He never took it out on the fans, though. You could walk up to him and say, ‘Hey coach. What's going on?' That means something, you know?”
Jeffries remembers vibrations coming off the seats at home games, first at Forbes Field and later at Three Rivers Stadium. Noll's first year was rocky, she said, but by his second, Pittsburgh streets were barren.
“For three hours every Sunday, there wouldn't be a car on the road,” she said. “No one missed those games.”
John Roberts and Mike Longhway, both 40, spent their formative years in Pittsburgh before fleeing to Cleveland and San Antonio, respectively. Roberts still wears the black and gold every Sunday, he said.
“The Steelers have been so good at defense for so many years,” he said. “The attitude established by the Steel Curtain under Noll is still what we're using today.”
Susan Jones, 67, of Carnegie calls herself a die-hard sports fan. She loves the Pens and Pirates, but football never appealed to her, she said.
“But everyone knew Chuck Noll,” she said. “Now there was a wonderful man.”
Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 412-388-5815 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers’ Wheaton adjusting his game moving to slot receiver
- Inside the Steelers: Ventrone suffers right ankle injury
- Steelers RB Archer trying to catch up after tough rookie season
- Steelers LB Timmons has grown into leadership role on defense
- Steelers notebook: Backup QB Gradkowski remains out with shoulder issue
- Steelers’ Brown arrives in style, vows to be ‘the best in the world’
- Steelers notebook: Rookie CB Golson still dealing with left shoulder pain
- Steelers tackle Beachum braces for competition along offensive line
- IOC urges US to come up with another bid city for 2024 Games
- Steelers RB Bell ready despite being in limbo
- Butler, Steelers defense take on new challenges