No Dents in the ‘Steel Curtain’ Armor
Total Pro Sports – The Pittsburgh Steelers have been the epitome of toughness in the NFL for as long as I can remember, their attitude towards winning is unprecedented. The Steelers reign began long before the era of the Dick Lebeau’s defensive scheme, Bill Cowher’s in your face coaching style, Jerome Bettis’ power running game and “Big” Ben Roethlisberger’s leadership under center.
The date was January 27, 1969, the 14th coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise was named, he is known as Chuck Noll. It is ironic that the job was originally offered to Penn State’s Joe Paterno, but when Paterno refused the offer it was awarded to Noll. Noll’s success followed him to Pittsburgh where he took his 4-3 defensive scheme which had great success with the San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Colts. A scheme is only a plan if the players cannot execute it, that is where the key components of the “Steel Curtain” came into play, they drafted well and the players executed the game plan.
Chuck Noll was not like other successful head coaches, he did not require notoriety nor was he a fan of the fame. For a man that was so dedicated to teaching the game to his players it is hard to believe that he does not even watch a full football game anymore. However, his record numbers are unmatched, in 1983 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the only coach to win 4 Super Bowls (IX, X, XIII and XIV).
If you would like to know more about coach Noll, it would not be a good idea to get that information from the man himself, rather, your best bet is to go see one of his former players the great, “Mean Joe” Greene. Green now resides in Texas, but admits he thinks of his former coach 3 times a week, I guess football is similar to a tour of duty, you serve your time and then you have the rest of your life to think about it. When Greene was selected with the fourth overall pick, he was less than thrilled about joining a franchise with a less than proven track record. At the end of his career he reflected on those tough times by saying this,
“I didn’t buy into it early on,” Greene says. “It was hard to believe what he was saying.”
Oh how the attitude changed in that locker room in the following years, In 1974 the Steelers did something that franchises dream of doing, with their first 5 selections they drafted 4 future Hall of Famers. Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Jack Lambert and Mike Webster, there was a chemistry that began to build and like a hurricane it would not be easy to slow down. The Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl that season and coupled that with 3 more in the following 5 years.
More than just a great coach Noll was infamous for looking beyond the color barrier and offering opportunity to all individuals. Under Noll, Joe Gilliam became the first African-American starting quarterback, in their 1974 Championship season but was shortly replaced by Terry Bradshaw, in 1975 Franco Harris became the first African-American to win the Super Bowl MVP award, and in the early 80’s Noll hired Tony Dungy (who played under Noll) as an Assistant coach.
Chuck Noll was not a motivator in fact he did not deliver pregame speeches, he felt that if his players needed to be motivated then they had no business playing the game. The man that was re-veered in the Steel City is long gone from the game but the tradition of winning he brought still lives on, when we watch the Steelers play in this years Super Bowl just remember the man that made all this happen, Chuck Noll.