Skip to main content

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

By Ben Brumfield and Kevin Conlon, CNN
June 15, 2014 -- Updated 1827 GMT (0227 HKT)
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 passed away in 2014. Click through to see people who passed away 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
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 0208 GMT (1008 HKT)
Click through our gallery to remember those we lost this year.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1058 GMT (1858 HKT)
Legendary fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, who spent half a century putting high society in haute couture, has died. He was 82.
October 19, 2014 -- Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT)
Singer and model Joanne Borgella, an "American Idol" contestant in 2008, died at age 32 after a battle with cancer.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1712 GMT (0112 HKT)
"August: Osage County" actress Misty Upham was declared dead by a Washington coroner after her body was found along a river in suburban Seattle.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1401 GMT (2201 HKT)
Actress Elizabeth Peña has died of natural causes after a brief illness. She was 55.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1219 GMT (2019 HKT)
Isaiah "Ikey" Owens, the keyboardist in Jack White's backing band, has died at age 38. The musician also played with bands such as Mars Volta and Free Moral Agents.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1313 GMT (2113 HKT)
Mark Bell, who founded the highly influential techno music duo LFO and later collaborated with Bjork on several iconic albums, has died.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1409 GMT (2209 HKT)
Actress and comedian Jan Hooks died in New York. She was 57
October 7, 2014 -- Updated 1129 GMT (1929 HKT)
Geoffrey Holder, a versatile artist known for his ability as a dancer, actor and -- most famously to most of America -- a pitchman for 7Up, has died at age 84.
October 6, 2014 -- Updated 0258 GMT (1058 HKT)
Paul Revere, leader of the 1960s rock band Paul Revere and the Raiders, has died at age 76.
October 5, 2014 -- Updated 0003 GMT (0803 HKT)
Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier died of a heart attack in Port-au-Prince at the age of 63, a family member told CNN.
September 28, 2014 -- Updated 1542 GMT (2342 HKT)
Former U.S. Rep. James Traficant of Ohio died after suffering injuries in an earlier accident on his farm.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1536 GMT (2336 HKT)
Eric "The Actor" Lynch, who became a celebrity among celebrities by calling in to Howard Stern's radio show, died at age 39.
September 21, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Emmy-winning actress Polly Bergen, whose TV and movie career spanned more than six decades, has died at age 84.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
Singer George Hamilton IV died at a Nashville hospital following a heart attack. He was 77.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1530 GMT (2330 HKT)
Northern Ireland's former first minister and former Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley has died. He was 88.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1304 GMT (2104 HKT)
Richard Kiel, the actor best known for playing the James Bond villain "Jaws," died at age 74 in a California hospital.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 2056 GMT (0456 HKT)
Actress Molly Glynn, who played an emergency room doctor on several "Chicago Fire" episodes, died from injuries after a tree fell on her during a storm.
ADVERTISEMENT