Chuck Noll: American football coach who transformed Pittsburgh Steelers and breathed life into their struggling city

 

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The Independent Online

Chuck Noll was one of the most successful coaches in American football, indeed, in American sporting history. He won a record four Super Bowl titles with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who he transformed from a long-standing joke into one of the powerhouses of the NFL. He was a demanding figure who didn't make close friends with his players, but was a pre-eminent motivator.

The Steelers won their four Super Bowls over six seasons (1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979), breathing life into a struggling, blue-collar city. His 16-8 record in post-season play remains one of the best in NFL history. He retired in 1991 with a record of 209 wins and 156 defeats in 23 seasons, after inheriting a team that had never won a postseason game.

A former guard for his home-town Cleveland Browns, he worked as an assistant coach with the San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Colts for nine seasons then accepted what seemed a dead-end job in 1969 as coach of the NFL's least successful franchise. He brought intelligence, toughness, stability, confidence, character and a can-do mindset to a franchise accustomed to upheaval and ever-changing personnel.

Asked at his first press conference if his goal was to make the Steelers respectable, he said, "Respectability? Who wants to be respectable? That's spoken like a true loser." He became noted for one-liners that became rallying cries. Phrases like "A life of frustration is inevitable for any coach whose main enjoyment is winning", "Before you can win a game, you have to not lose it" and "The thrill isn't in the winning, it's in the doing" spoke volumes about what Noll was trying to accomplish.

Charles Henry Noll, American footballer and coach: born Cleveland, Ohio 5 January 1932; died Sewickley, Pennsylvania 13 June 2014.

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