Steeler Nation we all have grown to know the Steeler tradition and have heard many talk about “The Steeler Way”. Many of us have grown up and know no other way. The Rooney’s are a huge part of this tradition and “way” of doing things .
There is another key architect of the “Steeler Way” and tradition. A major contributor of the winning way we know today that has gone unsung by many so called football experts . That man is Charles Henry Noll.
Chuck Noll’s philosophy was and still is the main blue print to how the Steelers develop players and run a winning team. Noll was a low key coach, never letting emotions get too high or low but staying at an even keel. Calm cool and collected . Noll was an outstanding teacher of the game and it’s fundamentals with a very keen eye for talent. He was a great communicator, able to relay his teachings in such a way that players could understand. Chuck Noll loved teaching and felt once a talented player was taught properly the sky was the limit.
Noll was very meticulous with an eye for the fine details. Noll studied medical books to better help players with injuries. Noll was very interested in the science of the game studying the best techniques of blocking, tackling and other practice techniques. Noll’s greatness as a coach is vastly underrated.
Coach Chuck Noll came to the Steelers in January 1969. The Steeler’s coaching situation before Noll was pretty much a revolving door. Years of losing teams and mediocrity had caused the Steeler fans and people around the league to coin the phrase “Same Old Steelers.”
By the mid 1960’s “the Chief” Art Rooney began to turn over much of the daily operation of the Steelers to his oldest son Dan Rooney. In 1969 Dan was determined to stop this revolving door of coaches . He began a search for a new head coach, but this time was much more thorough and systematic than in previous searches by his father.
Dan Rooney first interviewed Noll January 13th 1969 and came away very impressed. Noll had just came from Super Bowl III where he was defensive coach of the Baltimore Colts just a day before. Rooney was blown away by Noll’s knowledge of the Steeler’s strengths , weaknesses and personnel.
Noll seemed to have a grasp of details that only a Steeler coach may know and all this, just a day after coaching in Super Bowl III .
Noll played in the NFL for the Browns under legendary coach Paul Brown. Noll was very versatile, playing linebacker and guard. He soon became one of Brown’s “messenger guards,” trusted to bring different plays to the team in the huddle. Paul Brown had said Noll knew the plays so well that he could have called them himself with out any help from the bench. Noll was highly intelligent, and a true student of the game.
Noll began to tell Rooney his philosophy and plans he had if hired. Noll told Rooney he believed the Steelers had traded away their future in the past. The Steelers coaches of the past had been known to trade away draft picks and only rely on veteran players.
Noll said he believed in building a team through the draft with young raw talent and then teaching the fundamentals and instilling a winning attitude. Allowing a team to grow together. He warned that this would take patience and would not happen over night, but would be best for the long term future of the team. Noll made it clear that he was in it to win Super Bowls not be satisfied to just be a good team.
Dan Rooney met with other coaching candidates during this process including Penn St. Joe Paterno, but it did not take long to realize Noll was their man .
Noll became the Steeler’s 14th head coach in what was then their 36 year history , January 27th 1969.
In Noll’s first draft he chose 1st round pick defensive tackle Joe Greene . Noll had personally scouted “ Mean Joe Greene “ for a couple of years and knew what he was getting when he chose Greene. Greene went on to become a Hall of Fame player and the center piece of the famed “Steel Curtain” defense. Noll also took defensive end L.C. Greenwood in the 10th round. Greenwood would be the Steelers All Time sack leader when he retired. Noll also chose John Kolb in round 3 of that first draft . A key offensive lineman of the 70’s Steelers.
Noll’s first year was a rough one record wise. The Steelers went 1-13 . Noll knew it would not be an overnight success rebuilding and molding his team, but he and the Rooneys knew that they where headed in the right direction.
In the 1970 draft the Steelers took QB Terry Bradshaw in the first round and defensive back Mel Blount in round 3. Both players would go on to be Hall of Fame players. Noll’s second season would show some improvement going 5-9 and now Noll had a QB of the future.
In the 1971 Draft the Steelers took linebacker Jack Ham in the second round. Ham would also be a Hall of Fame player. In round 4 the Steelers took defensive end Dwight White. In round 8 defensive tackle Ernie Holmes. These two picks were significant because now Noll had the front four of the famous Steel Curtain defense in place, DT- Joe Greene , DE- L.C. Greenwood , DE-Dwight White and DT- Ernie Holmes . The Steelers record improved to 6-8.
1972 was truly the turning point for the Steelers and “The Steeler way” . Noll had established a core group of talented players ,and a new winning attitude for the organization and its fans. His coaching philosophy was beginning to breed success. This was Noll’s team and less then 10 players remained from that first roster in 1969. The Steelers would pick running back Franco Harris in the 1st Round . Harris would be named rookie of the year. The Steelers would go 11-3 and win their first playoff game under Noll. Franco Harris would make the now famous catch “The Immaculate Reception” to beat the Raiders in the playoffs. The Steelers would later lose to Miami the eventual Super Bowl champs of 72. Franco Harris would also become a Hall of Fame running back.
In 1973 the Steelers would continue their winning ways going 10-4. Now Noll and his team had established themselves as winners and contenders proving that the 72 season was no fluke. They made the playoffs once again but lost to the Oakland Raiders .
In 1974 the Steelers and Noll had one of the best drafts in NFL history. Drafting 4 future Hall of Fame players. 1st round wide receiver Lynn Swann , 2nd round linebacker Jack Lambert, 4th round wide receiver John Stallworth and 5th round center Mike Webster. This is the draft that took the Steelers from a great team to a great dynasty ! In 74 the Steelers would go10-3-1 and win their first Super Bowl beating the Minnesota Vikings,16-6 in Super Bowl IX. The Steelers would repeat in 1975 beating the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in Super Bowl X . The Steelers would also win Super Bowl XIII in 1978 beating the Cowboys again 35-31 and repeated once again in 1979 beating the Los Angeles Rams 31-19 in Super Bowl XIV
Noll and the Steelers won 4 Super Bowls in the span of 6 seasons and was named the team of decade. No other coach in NFL history has 4 Super Bowl wins. Yet Noll is rarely mentioned when there is talk of the greatest coaches of all time??? Noll is a very private man and shunned publicity and endorsements like the plague during and after his career. He always gave credit to the players and never wanted the spot light. How refreshing is that? In this day of NFL loud mouth & coaching arrogance. Chuck Noll kept a team of many super star players focused and ready to play in the biggest games for most the 70’s and this is just a small testament to his greatness.
Noll came to the Steelers with a plan and philosophy, executed it brilliantly and took one of the leagues woeful franchises and changed its whole culture and way of thinking. Chuck Noll established a blue print of building through the draft,developing young talent and instilling a winning attitude that is still used to this day. Chuck Noll taught the Steelers how to win! His greatness may go unsung by some but Steeler Nation , Chuck Noll was a great teacher and one of the greatest coaches to ever coach the game of football. Thank you Chuck Noll.
Chuck Noll’s Coaching stats
Steelers All Time Winning Coach 209 wins
Regular Season : 193-148-1 55.6 % Post Season : 16-8 66.7% 4 Super Bowl Championships
Chuck Noll facts you may not have known
~ Chuck Noll had his pilot license , flew planes and scuba dived in his spare time.
~ Noll played the ukulele guitar, liked fine wines and Classical chamber music.
~ Noll once served as guest conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
~ While playing for the Browns Noll attended Law School classes at night .
Chuck Noll Quotes
“Before you can win a game you have to not lose it” ~Chuck Noll
“The key to a winning season is focusing on one opponent at a time.Winning one week at a time . Never look back and never look ahead ” ~Chuck Noll
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