A Praiseworthy Man

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“History is Losing Sight of Chuck Noll”
Written by Rick Trottier – Light Works Studio-RJT Images
Like most of the people of my generation, I grew up playing a variety of sports, mostly in pickup games, but also in organized leagues. I followed the fortunes of our local college and professional teams, and since I grew up in southern New Hampshire near the Massachusetts line, Boston-area teams were generally my mainstays. But as television sports broadcasting expanded throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, I extended my scope of teams to follow. I had a penchant for the Pittsburgh teams for a variety of personal reasons and one of those whys and wherefores were the Steelers were once one of the saddest of sad-sacks of the NFL. Despite being a perennial loser, I still supported them and perhaps that’s where my tendency to cheer for the doormats of any league started. But in the early 1970s, while the New England Patriots languished in misery as one of the worst teams in the NFL, the Steelers saw an upswing that would lead to one of the most successful runs and glorious dynasties in NFL history.
Most fans ardently follow the players, and I was no exception in that case, but I have long been somewhat of an iconoclast in almost everything. I tend to read and love the less popular books of iconic authors and enjoy the less-played songs of entertainers. In all sports, but especially in football, I also studied and learned from the great coaches of the 1960s and 1970s. Those decades brought to fans some of the finest minds and personas of all the many years of pro football and their names live on even to this day. And while the great rostersof the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers are well-remembered by most serious devotees of the sport, unless you’re older or are an astute scholar of the history of the game, you might not remember their coach, Chuck Noll, and his many accomplishments as well as praiseworthy attributes.

From 1969 to 1991, Chuck Noll was the head coach of the Steelers and he and the owners of the team, the Rooney Family, created a culture of winning that had never truly existed in that city. Prior to 1969, the Steelers had made the playoffs once in their history dating back to 1933, and that one experience was a loss. Over all of his years leading the team, Coach Noll made the playoff more often than not, accrued a winning percentage of nearly 60% in one of the toughest divisions in football and won four Super Bowls, a feat that at the time was unmatched. Even to this day, the Steelers accomplishment of four Super Bowl wins in six years has yet to be equaled. But despite all the accolades, it is the legacy of imparting a sense of excellence, pride and high expectations that survives him. In addition, the franchise expects durability in its head coaches and there is a loyalty to coaches that never existed before. Since 1969, Pittsburgh has had three head coaches. That sense of consistency of expectations, patience and commitment to “the Steeler Way” was absent before Chuck Noll’s arrival.
You can read more of this article in our July/August issue


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