Hall of Famer Chuck Noll dies at 82

The Steelers went just 1-13 in Noll's first season, but he took Greene, a defensive tackle from North Texas State, with the fourth overall pick of the 1969 draft, and a year later Pittsburgh drafted quarterback Terry Bradshaw with the first overall selection.

Those picks laid the foundation for the teams that would dominate a decade like few others in NFL history.

"He was a teacher, he was a father figure, he was a coach. He was the stability we all needed," said Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Blount, who played for the Steelers from 1970-83. "We were all young kids, great talent and everybody had their own goals and dreams, but he was able to keep us focused on one thing, and that was winning.

"He gave Pittsburgh a sense of pride. When the Steelers hired Chuck Noll, they were the doormat of the National Football League. And then he drafted Joe Greene, which in my opinion was the beginning of everything that happened to us."

Bradshaw, who was benched early in his career by Noll and had a contentious relationship with his head coach, said in a statement Saturday that he is "proud" to have played for Noll and credited Noll's tough love for helping him develop into the first quarterback to win four Super Bowls, a feat that has only been matched by Joe Montana.

"My relationship [with Noll] wasn't good, but he made me understand my responsibilities because I had to grow up," Bradshaw said. "I came out of an environment with nothing but pats on the back and love. With him it was nowhere near that. He made me mentally strong, which I wasn't, and he instilled in me a great work ethic. He was an amazing guy."

The Steelers won their first-ever playoff game in 1972, beating the Oakland Raiders, 13-7, after Harris scored on the final play of the game on what has been dubbed "The Immaculate Reception."

Two seasons later the Steelers won the first of their four Super Bowls, beating the Minnesota Vikings with a display of force that could be traced to keen drafting under Noll as well as his acumen for coaching defense.

"We had some of the most amazingly, complicated defenses I have ever seen," said former Steelers linebacker Andy Russell, who starred on the Super Bowl-winning teams in 1974-75. "I remember telling Bill Walsh about some of the things we did and he couldn't believe it."

The Steelers won three more Super Bowls after the 1974 season, and they might have added another one in 1976 had injuries not sidelined Harris and Rocky Bleier for the AFC Championship Game, which they lost 24-7 at Oakland.

"One of the lessons I learned from him was that you've never arrived," said Hall of Fame receiver John Stallworth, who played on all four championship teams. "That you never get to the point where you are the best that you can be, and you should admit you are always striving to be better and to get better in whatever it was -- as a football player, as a father, as a business person, as someone who was active in the community.

"You could always get better at something. Don't just settle for where you are. I think I carry that more than anything. You can always be better."

The Steelers never made it back to the Super Bowl under Noll after beating the Los Angeles Rams in 1979 for a fourth world championship.

He coached for 12 more seasons before retiring in 1991 and concentrating on his many interests outside of football.

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