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Chuck Noll: The Emperor of a Nation

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a football franchise that was the laughingstock of the NFL.
No, we’re not talking about the Cleveland Browns, they were actually good back then. We’re speaking of the Pittsburgh Steelers. For 36 years, the Steelers wallowed in mediocrity. Only in 1947 had they even sniffed the playoffs, where they were clobbered by the Philadelphia Eagles 21-0 at Forbes Field.
From 1933 to 1968, the Pittsburgh Steelers were a joke.
Then, one day before the 1969 NFL Draft, “He” arrived.
Charles Henry Noll.
Chuck Noll was hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers on January 27, 1969, after the Steelers were unable to lure Penn State coach Joe Paterno away from college football. An excellent evaluator of talent, the next day Noll went out and drafted defensive tackle Joe Greene from North Texas State with the 1st Selection of the draft. “Mean” Joe Greene went on to become one of the most legendary players in NFL History.
Joe Green was just the tip of the iceberg, as Noll drafted players such as Terry Bradshaw and Mel Blount in 1970, Jack Ham in 1971 and Franco Harris in 1972. In 1974, Noll accomplished something that will likely never be done again, as he drafted four future Hall of Famer’s in Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Jack Lambert, and Mike Webster.
Noll was extremely detailed and technique oriented. It was his way or the highway when it came to coaching. He was nicknamed Emperor Chaz by none other than broadcasting great Myron Cope.
Turning a franchise from tatter’s into champions wasn’t an overnight process. In Noll’s first season in 1969, the Steelers finished 1-13, as it wasn’t an easy process to weed out all of the bad players and replace them immediately with talented ones. Draft by draft, the pieces were starting the come into place when 1972 rolled around. The Steelers finished 11-3 and made the playoffs.
Does 1972 ring a bell?
In their 2nd playoff appearance in franchise history, the Steelers faced the Oakland Raiders at Three Rivers Stadium. Trailing 7-6 with 22 seconds left in the game, Terry Bradshaw lined the Steelers up on 4th and 10 from their own 40 and launched a pass towards John “Frenchy” Fuqua. Those names sound familiar?
The ball bounced off of Fuqua who was engaged by Jack Tatum, and caromed into the hands of Franco Harris who scampered into the endzone and giving the Steelers the most improbable victories in NFL History.
The Immaculate Reception.
A franchise was reborn, as these Steelers were now winners thanks to the vision of Chuck Noll. The next week they were defeated by the Miami Dolphins, who would go on to become the last undefeated Super Bowl Champions. If it weren’t for an early injury to Terry Bradshaw that game, perhaps history would be altered.
The Steelers, under Chuck Noll, went on to become the 70’s most dominant team, winning Super Bowl’s IX, X, XIII, and XIV.
Noll remains the only coach in the history of the NFL to win four Super Bowl Championships. He retired following the 1991 season and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.
Noll was beloved by his players and fans. He was a father figure to many of his players. He was a humble, down to earth man who never sought fame or accolades. He was a teacher who simply conveyed a simple message to his team: Listen to me and I will turn you into winners.
He believed in family time. He once told his players, “You won’t be judged in life by the way you played football, you’ll be judged by the way you raise your children”. He wasn’t a master motivator or a rah-rah guy. His goal was to instruct his players in the best way he could, put into a position to win, and then let them loose upon the gridiron. When he spoke, you listened.
Chuck Noll was the father of Steeler Nation. Without him, it’s hard to imagine the Pittsburgh Steelers as they are today. They are a worldwide brand. When you mention the Pittsburgh Steelers, save for their bitter rivals, you think of the words integrity, determination, and most of all, champions. He single-handedly turned a city and a region around. Pittsburgh was a beaten down area. Other than the Pittsburgh Pirates winning World Series Titles in 1960 and 1971, there was nothing really to look forward to, let alone from Fall through Spring. The Steelers were always known as losers, and Noll turned them into winners. Pittsburgh rallied around them. The Steelers gave them something to be proud about, something to stick their chests out a little farther and holding their heads a little higher. People were proud to proclaim they were from Pittsburgh. It became a badge of honor.
Now, no matter where you are in the world, if you’re wearing something with the Pittsburgh Steelers on, there’s a good chance someone is going to come up to you and toss you a high five. When you are a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, you’re never alone in this world.
June 13th, 2014 will always be a sad day for Steelers Nation. It’s patriarch Chuck Noll is gone, but his legacy will never be forgotten. He was the greatest coach in NFL History, and that’s nothing against Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, or whatever name you come up with. You show me another guy who turned nothing into the NFL’s most legendary franchise. From his drafts to player development, to his vision that to this very day defines the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chuck Noll was the one who started it all. The Standard is the Standard. Here in Pittsburgh, they expect to win every year. Nothing less than your best effort will suffice here. That translates into daily life here as well.
Thanks to Coach Noll’s vision, that’s the way it should be.
Rest in peace coach. Thank you for all that you did. You will never be forgotten as long as Steeler Nation lives.

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Mike DrakulichYour source for Pittsburgh sports!
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.

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