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NFL – Greatest Teams – Chuck Noll & The Pittsburgh Steelers


Chuck Noll was named the 14th head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers on January 27, 1969….after then Penn State head coach Joe Paterno turned down an offer for the position…..becoming the youngest coach in NFL history at the time….as Steelers owner Art Rooney would later credit Don Shula as the person that recommended Noll as a head coach.  Noll implemented a defensive system in Pittsburgh that became the legendary “Steel Curtain” defense….as his coaching style earned him the nickname of The Emperor Chaz by sports announcer Myron Cope…for Noll became the first head coach to win four Super Bowls…..while coaching the Steelers to victory in Super Bowl IX (1975) vs Coach Bud Grant’s Minnesota Vikings…. Super Bowl X (1976) vs Coach Tom Landry’s Dallas Cowboys…. and again over Landry’s Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII(1979)…..with the final victory coming against Coach Johnny Robinson’s Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV (1980).

The key to Noll’s coaching success during this run was the Steelers’ skill in selecting outstanding players in the NFL college player draft…..as Noll’s first round one pick was “Mean” Joe Greene….a defensive tackle from North Texas State….who went on to become a perennial All-Pro and anchor the defensive line of The Steel Curtain…..followed by the Steelers drafting quarterback Terry Bradshaw (Louisiana Tech) and running back Franco Harris (Penn State) as round one picks the following year….then in the 1974 draft, Noll and the Steelers achieved a level of drafting success never seen before or since….when they selected four future Hall of Fame players with their first five picks….including  wide receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth….middle linebacker Jack Lambert….and center Mike Webster. To this day, no other draft by any team has included more than two future Hall of Famers.

A meticulous coach, Noll was known during practice to dwell on fundamentals….such as the three-point stance….things that professional players were expected to know….for instance, Andy Russell, already a Pro Bowl linebacker before Noll arrived and one of the few players Noll kept after purging the roster his first year….was told by Noll that he didn’t have his feet positioned right….so as a result of Noll’s attention to detail….Russell went on to become a key member for the first two Super Bowl teams and started the linebacker tradition that continues today in Pittsburgh.

Noll was a well-read man who valued education and expected likewise from his team, so he sought players who studied useful or practical subjects in college and had interests outside of football. “I didn’t want to pick guys who just took wood shop or some other easy course they could breeze through to play football.” he explained.

While most of his contemporaries….as well as current NFL head coaches….enforced strict curfew rules on its players….Noll was very lax on off-the-field behavior….evidenced by his team’s off-field behavior at Super Bowl IX….while Noll’s counterpart….Minnesota Vikings head coach Bud Grant….strictly kept his team in their hotel rooms except for practice before the game….whereas Noll told his team upon arriving in New Orleans to go out on Bourbon Street “and get the partying out of your system now.”

The hallmark of the Pittsburgh Steelers team during the 1970’s was a stifling defense known as The Steel Curtain comprising of D-linemen L. C. Greenwood, Joe Greene, Ernie Holmes and Dwight White…along with linebackers Jack Ham, and Jack Lambert….as this group had a collective level of talent unseen before in the NFL.

The teams that won Super Bowls IX and X used a run-oriented offense….while primarily featuring RB Franco Harris and blocking back Rocky Bleier…..however, over the next few years….QB Terry Bradshaw matured into an outstanding passer….and the teams that won Super Bowls XIII and XIV fully utilized the receiving tandem of Lynn Swann and John Stallworth.

Noll was notoriously shy and did not like the media or give many interviews. His 1970s teams were so talented that his contributions as head coach (and architect of the team) often were overlooked….but this video aptly projects the genius of the coach and the talent of his team.

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