Skip to main content

Steelers' Chuck Noll, coach with the most Super Bowl rings, dead at 82

By Ben Brumfield and Kevin Conlon, CNN
updated 2:27 PM EDT, Sun June 15, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "I'm proud to have played for him," says Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw
  • Chuck Noll, who coached the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1969 to 1991, dies at 82
  • The Steelers were a perennial NFL doormat until Noll took over as head coach
  • NEW: "Noll never got the credit he deserved" says Don Shula

(CNN) -- He picked up the Pittsburgh Steelers from the bottom of the pile, and when he finished with them, they had become a fearsome powerhouse. Chuck Noll, the man who led his team to four Super Bowl victories -- the most by any head coach -- died late Friday. He was 82.

Family was by his side when Noll passed away of natural causes at his home in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh, the Allegheny County medical examiner's office said. He had suffered from Alzheimer's and heart disease.

His Super Bowl triumphs are the tip of the iceberg of the winning legacy Noll left behind.

Click through to see people who died in 2014. Click through to see people who died in 2014.
People we lost in 2014
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: People we lost in 2014 Photos: People we lost in 2014

When he took over the helm of the Steelers in 1969, the team had not won a single title in nearly 40 years, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which inducted Noll into its Canton, Ohio, shrine in 1993.

During his first year as head coach, the team floundered to a season close of just one win and 13 losses. But Noll homed in on the yearly draft of college players and used his savvy to assemble the gritty, talented nucleus of what would become a dynasty.

By 1972, the Steelers' fortunes turned, when they won their first-ever division title, the AFC Central. They went on to win eight more during Noll's stint of 23 seasons, which ended in 1991 with an overall record of 209 wins, 156 losses and one tie.

The Noll era spawned one Steeler Hall of Fame player after another, such as quarterback Terry Bradshaw; "Mean" Joe Greene, who anchored the "Steel Curtain" defensive line; center Mike Webster, linebackers Jack Ham and Jack Lambert; receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth; and running back Franco Harris, whose career rushing yards rank 13th in NFL history.

Steeler greats mourn their former coach

"I had a great amount of fear for him," Bradshaw said Saturday. "He's kind of like a father from whom you want approval and you don't quite get it." For Bradshaw, who had a stormy relationship with Noll, that fear amounted to respect. "I'm proud to have played for him. It was a great honor."

"Chuck was just the ultimate leader," said Greene, who played his entire career for Noll. "He had truth and belief in what he was saying, and over time all of those things he said were validated, the things about winning football games and being a solid citizen."

"I am a little shocked by this, and sad," added Harris. "These are times when we reflect on all the great memories and the great times that we had. And there's no doubt that these memories that we had, probably people consider them the best of times in pro football."

Four Super Bowls in six years

Noll began his pro football career in the 1950s, playing as a guard and linebacker for the Cleveland Browns. After his playing career he became an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Chargers (later the San Diego Chargers).

He was the defensive coordinator in 1968 for the seemingly invincible Baltimore Colts. Despite a season that ended in a Super Bowl loss to the New York Jets, the Colts' defense gave up only 144 points. It was Baltimore head coach Don Shula who recommended him for the Pittsburgh job.

Shula, who himself would go on to win two Super Bowls at the helm of the Miami Dolphins, told CNN that letting Noll go "was the right thing to do."

"He wanted to be there, and he needed to be there, so I let him go."

Noll, Shula said, was "a wonderful human being."

"He never got the credit he deserved for his accomplishments."

Noll and the Steelers took their first Vince Lombardi Trophy in January 1975, beating the Minnesota Vikings 16-6 in Super Bowl IX, then went on to win three of the next five, capped by a 31-19 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV.

Since Noll's retirement the Steelers have gone on to win two more Super Bowls for a total of six, more than any other NFL franchise.

Reaction

People we've lost in 2014

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:17 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Click through our gallery to remember those we lost this year.
updated 5:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Joe Cocker, the British blues-rock singer whose raspy voice brought plaintive soul to such hits as "You Are So Beautiful," has died at 70.
updated 6:26 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The creator of "Clifford the Big Red Dog," has died, according to his publisher, Scholastic.
updated 9:59 PM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
Legendary photographer Michel du Cille, a 26-year veteran of The Washington Post, unexpectedly died while on assignment in Liberia.
updated 6:26 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Mary Ann Mobley, who was the first Mississippian to be crowned Miss America and then went on to a successful movie career, has died at 77.
updated 4:35 PM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Ken Weatherwax, who played Pugsley on the 1960s TV show "The Addams Family," has died at 59.
updated 7:51 PM EST, Wed December 3, 2014
Ian McLagan, the Faces keyboardist who also played on records by artists like the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen, has died at 69.
updated 7:27 PM EST, Tue December 2, 2014
American saxophonist Bobby Keys, who for years toured and recorded with the Rolling Stones, has died.
updated 7:57 PM EST, Fri November 28, 2014
Roberto Gomez Bolanos gained fame as a comedian, but he was also a writer, actor, screenwriter, songwriter, film director and TV producer.
updated 3:40 PM EST, Fri November 28, 2014
Ryan Knight, a cast member on MTV's "Real World: New Orleans," has died at age 28.
updated 10:49 AM EST, Thu November 27, 2014
P.D. James, the British novelist renowned for her crime novels featuring detective Adam Dalgliesh as well as such works as "The Children of Men," has died at age 94.
updated 3:38 PM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
A file picture taken on August 20, 2001 shows Lebanese popular singer Sabah displaying her medal after being honored at the opening of the 7th Cairo International Song festival in Cairo. Famed Lebanese singer and actress Sabah, whose seven-decade career made her one of the Arab world's best-known entertainers, died on November 26, 2014 at the age of 87, state media announced.
Lebanese singer and actress Sabah, died in Beirut. She was 87.
updated 4:18 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
Former Washington Mayor Marion Barry has died at age 78.
updated 4:56 PM EST, Fri November 14, 2014
Diem Brown, the MTV reality star whose fight against cancer was an inspiration to many, lost that long battle on Friday. She was 32.
updated 6:40 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Mike Nichols, the award-winning director and pioneering comedian who was one of the few people to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony award, has died at 83.
updated 9:13 AM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Jimmy Ruffin, silky-voiced singer of the Motown classic "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted," died in Las Vegas at 78.
updated 2:04 PM EST, Sun November 16, 2014
Prolific television producer Glen Larson passed away at the age of 77 after a battle with cancer. He produced many popular shows, including "Knight Rider" and "Battlestar Galactica."
updated 4:56 PM EST, Fri November 14, 2014
Diem Brown, the MTV reality star whose fight against cancer was an inspiration to many, lost that long battle at the age of 32.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT