When former Steelers coach Chuck Noll passed away, he left behind a legacy which is unrivalled in the history of the NFL. The Hall of Fame coach led the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl victories in the span of six years. A feat that only he has accomplished. Noll embodied the working class mentality of the Steel City and was instrumental in building a team for the ages.
Noll stepped into a jumbled mess when he was hired as head coach of the Steelers in 1969. The team had made just one playoff appearance and had shuffled through over a dozen coaches since they came into the league in 1933. The road to greatness wouldn’t be easy, though. The Steelers won just one game in Noll’s first season. They would go 12-30 in his first three seasons.
Slowly and steadily, Noll began to build his roster. He selected “Mean” Joe Greene with his first draft pick in 1969. Greene gave rise to the famous “Steel Curtain” and became one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL. Over the next few years came Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris, both first round picks. And then there was the historic 1974 draft. Noll and the Steelers selected four future Hall of Fame players with their first five picks: Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Jack Lambert and Mike Webster. No other draft by any other team has ever yielded that kind of success. With the key personnel in place, the Steelers were about to embark on their historic run.
The Steelers’ top-rated defense was key in in Super Bowl IX and they defeated the Minnesota Vikings 16-6. They went on to win their second consecutive championship in 1975, outplaying the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 21-17. Three years later, the Steelers and Cowboys met again in Super Bowl XIII. Pittsburgh became the first team to win three Super Bowls, defeating the Cowboys 35-31. Their reign would continue the following season, chalking up another championship against the Los Angeles Rams and giving the franchise its fourth Super Bowl victory.
Noll would go on to coach the Steelers for many more years, retiring after the 1991 season with a record of 209-156-1. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. Not only was he an innovator on the football field, he provided ground-breaking opportunities for African Americans. In 1974, Joe Gilliam became the league’s first African American starting quarterback. In 1975, Franco Harris became the first African American to win the Super Bowl MVP. Tony Dungy began his storied carrier under the Steelers and Chuck Noll, as well.
No other coach has duplicated the success that Noll brought to the Steelers in the 1970s. “He set a new standard for the Steelers that still is the foundation of what we do and who we are,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II. “From the players to the coaches to the front office down to the ball boys, he taught us all what it took to be a winner.”
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