PITTSBURGH – Chuck Noll, the Hall of Fame coach who won a record four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers, died Friday night at his home. He was 82.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner said Noll died of natural causes.
Noll transformed the Steelers from a long-standing joke into one of the NFL’s powers, becoming the only coach to win four Super Bowls. He was a demanding figure who did not make close friends with his players, yet was a successful and motivating leader.
The Steelers won the four Super Bowls over six seasons (1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979), an unprecedented run that made Pittsburgh one of the NFL’s marquee franchises, one that breathed life into a struggling, blue-collar city.
“He was one of the great coaches of the game,” Steelers owner Dan Rooney once said. “He ranks up there with (George) Halas, (Tom) Landry and (Curly) Lambeau.”
Noll’s 16-8 record in postseason play remains one of the best in league history. He retired in 1991 with a 209-156-1 record in 23 seasons, after inheriting a team that had never won a postseason game. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.
When he retired, and was replaced by Bill Cowher, only four other coaches or managers in modern U.S. pro sports history had run their teams longer than Noll had.
“Chuck Noll is the best thing that happened to the Rooneys since they got on the boat (to America) in Ireland,” Art Rooney II, the former Steelers personnel chief and the son of the team founder, once said.
A former messenger guard for his hometown Cleveland Browns, Noll was an assistant with the San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Colts for nine seasons. Then he accepted what seemed a dead-end job in January 1969 as coach of the NFL’s least-successful organization.
At the time Noll took over, the franchise was 105 games below .500 in its history.
Noll immediately brought intelligence, toughness, stability, confidence, character and a can-do mindset to a franchise accustomed to constant upheaval and ever-changing personnel.
Asked at his first news conference if his goal was to make the Steelers respectable, Noll said: “Respectability? Who wants to be respectable? That’s spoken like a true loser.”
Born in Cleveland, Noll played collegiately at Dayton. He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh’s biggest, most traditional rival, in 1953. At 27, he retired as a player from the Browns in 1959.