Chuck Noll, who led the once pitiful Pittsburgh Steelers into an era of triumph in the 1970s, became the first and still only NFL coach to win four Super Bowls and did it all with a fundamental, no frills style, died at 9:55 p.m. ET Friday night of natural causes at his home in the Pittsburgh suburb of Sewickley, according to Leonard Longo, a forensic investigator for the Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner. He was 82.
"Hiring Chuck Noll was the best decision we ever made for the Steelers," team owner Dan Rooney wrote in his autobiography. "... To become world champions, we needed a coach with the right combination of vision, intelligence and leadership: someone who could teach us how to win."
Noll, who had been defensive backfield coach of the Baltimore Colts, took over the Steelers in 1969 with no fanfare. In 37 seasons before his arrival, the Steelers had gone through 16 coaches and never won a thing. Not a conference title. Not a division title. Their postseason record in that span: losses in 1947 (in a division tie-breaker just to make the playoffs) and in 1962 (in a "Playoff Bowl" that was merely for third place).
But under Noll, who built a formidable roster through a series of draft bonanzas, the Steelers won the Super Bowl in the 1974 and 1975 seasons and again in 1978 and 1979. He compiled an overall coaching record of 209-156-1, including 16-8 in the playoffs and nine AFC Central Division titles. He was inducted into the Pro Bowl Football Hall of Fame in 1993.
After 23 seasons as coach of the Steelers, Noll retired at the end of the 1991 season after Pittsburgh struggled to a 7-9 record.
"It would have been great to have had 10 victories and been in the playoffs and have gone all the way and then said, 'Goodbye,' " he said after retiring. "But it didn't work out that way."
But on the whole, his tenure in Pittsburgh more than worked out.