All Hail the Emperor Chaz!
Coach Chuck Noll Built the Foundation for the Steelers
Few in history have had the title of "emperor" bestowed upon
them-Augustus, Constantine, Napoleon - Chuck Noll. Although not a leader of
a country, the former Steelers coach headed the Steelers Nation and led his
team to four Super Bowl victories, more than any other coach in NFL history.
The late legendary sportscaster Myron Cope befittingly crowned Noll with his
emperorship, and this quiet, unassuming man has worn it well.
Charles "Chuck" Noll ironically was born in
Cleveland, Pittsburgh's rival city, in 1932. He was an
outstanding high school football athlete at Benedictine
High School, where his prowess on the gridiron earned
him a football scholarship to the University of Dayton.
In 1953, he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns.
Chuck Noll spent his entire pro football career with
the Browns, retiring in 1959. From 1960-1961, Noll
served as an assistant coach with the American Football
League's San Diego Chargers, coaching the defensive
line. Under Don Shula, he served as the defensive
coordinator with the Baltimore Colts from 1966-1968.
During the 1968 season, the Colts went 13-1 and set the
NFL record for the fewest points allowed (144). The
Colts won the NFL championship that year 34-0, but lost
in Super Bowl III to the AFL Champs, the New York Jets,
When the Steelers had the Worst Record in the NFL
Noll's success as an assistant coach didn't go
unnoticed. In 1969, after Penn State coach Joe Paterno
turned down the position of head coach for the
Pittsburgh Steelers, Chuck Noll was offered the job,
becoming the Steelers 14th head coach. When Noll was
hired, he was given the helm of a foundering team,
having come off a previous season record of 2-11-1, the
NFL's worst record that year.
When Noll took over, he was charged with the
unenviable task of turning the team around. He employed
the defensive expertise he had perfected in his previous
positions, instituting what became known as the "Steel
Curtain Defense." The task was not easy. In his first
season as the Steelers skipper, Noll coached the team to
a dismal 1-13 record. Noll set out to clean out the
"dead wood" on the team. In 1969, the Steelers selected
Joe Green in the NFL draft, the first of many pieces
that would comprise the Steelers' legendary defense.
In the 1970 season, the Steelers made some progress,
upping their record to an anemic 5-9, but during that
year's draft, two key players were added - Terry
Bradshaw and Mel Blount. The next season the team racked
up one more win, finishing the 1971 season with a 6-8
The Steelers' First Ever AFC Central Division
The dawn of a new era in Steelers football arrived
with 1972 season, the team's 40th Anniversary. After
several years of struggling, the Steelers under Coach
Noll went 11-3 and won the franchise's first-ever AFC
Central Division Championship. The team lost to the
undefeated Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship match.
Winning soon became a habit. In 1973, the Steelers once
again went the to division finals but lost to the
During the 1974 draft, the Steelers selected Lynn
Swann, Jack Lambert, Mike Webster, and John Stallworth.
All four would be taken into the Pro Football Hall of
Fame. The Steelers were the only team to ever select
four hall-of-famers in one draft. The team went 10-3-1,
eclipsing their previous success and meeting the
Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX, where Noll's Steel
Curtain defense held the Vikings to a paltry 17 yards
rushing, earning the Steelers their first Super Bowl
Defending Super Bowl Champions
In a matter of years Noll took the Steelers from the
NFL's cellar to its first championship. Success is an
intoxicating elixir. The team entered the 1975 season as
defending champs, but it not only improved on its
regular season record (12-2) but also capped the season
with another championship in Super Bowl X against the
Dallas Cowboys. Third time was not the charm for the
Steelers in 1976. They had hoped to run the table and win
their third Super Bowl in three years, but the team lost
in the AFC Championship to the Oakland Raiders.
The team failed again in 1977, but in 1978, Noll's
defensive acumen asserted itself. The team had the
fewest points scored against them (195) in the league,
and they parlayed this into their third championship in
Super Bowl XIII against the Dallas Cowboys. The Steelers
sent a remarkable 10 players to the Pro Bowl that year.
In 1979 the Steelers once again triumphed in Super
Bowl XIV against the Los Angeles Rams, giving the team
an unprecedented fourth Super Bowl ring and the
distinction of being the only team to ever win
back-to-back Super Bowls twice.
NFL Coach of the Year
Noll led the Steelers to the playoffs in 1983, 1984,
and 1989, and that season he was also named NFL Coach of
the Year. Noll retired in 1991 with a record of
209-156-1, and he was selected to the Pro Football Hall
of Fame in 1993.
While Noll's successes as a football coach are
legendary, to ignore his other accomplishments would be
a disservice to the man. Myron Cope, the late Steelers
broadcaster, described Noll as a renaissance man. Noll
flew planes, sailed boats, gardened, cooked and was a
wine expert as well as a student of history.
While Yogi Berra is famous for his comical,
paradoxical sayings, Noll, a more laconic man, imparted
some memorable pieces of wisdom as well. He once said of
Steelers running back, Sydney Thornton: "He has problems
and they are many." He also said, "Before you can win a
game, you have to not lose it" and "A life of
frustration is inevitable for any coach whose main
enjoyment is winning."
Perhaps what made Noll so great was that he while he
was a fierce competitor, he kept football in
perspective, developing outside interests. When a player
was cut or traded, Coach Noll often remarked, "He must
get on with his life's work."
Whatever Noll "worked on" in his life, he was a
success, and many Pittsburghers count themselves lucky
to have been around during the reign of Emperor Chaz.
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