I've always admired Chuck Noll. Even as a kid, I respected the kind of coach he was. I remember an exercise during a social studies class in high school where we had to list five famous people that we'd like to have dinner with. Chuck Noll was one of mine. I was laughed at by the other kids in the class, but kids just don't know genius when they see it.
Noll was almost directly responsible for changing the fortunes of an entire franchise, and creating so many great memories for generations of people.
I wonder if he realizes it?
I've been thinking about it recently. How would the Steelers be viewed right now if Noll wasn't hired as the 14th head coach back in 1969? Much like with George Bailey in "It's A Wonderful Life," things might have turned out much differently.
Before Noll, there was a long succession of coaches who were mostly underwhelming. The Steelers never won a playoff game. And they did things like cut Len Dawson and Johnny Unitas. They weren't looked at as the standard of excellence the way they are today. They were looked at as the jokers of the NFL. There never seemed to be a plan or much of a direction.
A different coach would probably have had a different philosophy, and instead of building through the draft, maybe he would have traded high draft picks off in exchange for veteran players. And even if he did try to build through the draft, odds are he wouldn't of had the same view on players. There might have been a Terry Bradshaw, but what about Joe Greene? And would a different coach have acquired nine future Hall of Famers in his first six draft classes? Not to mention other key players like LC Greenwood, Jon Kolb, Dwight White, Mike Wagner, and Donnie Shell?
Chuck Noll had a plan, and he stuck to it and what a brilliant plan it was. Four Super Bowl titles in a six year span, and he built a winning tradition that still holds true to this day. After Noll retired, the fans didn't just want a coach to come in and win games, they wanted one capable of winning championships. If it wasn't for the standard that Noll created, the front office may not have been as serious about his successor and we may not have had Bill Cowher, and then, of course, Mike Tomlin. Instead of three coaches in 40 years, maybe there's thirty, and no championships to celebrate.
If it wasn't for the Super 70's, would the Rooneys be looked at as a class family? How would history have viewed Art Rooney without those Super Bowls? Would there be a play called "The Chief?" What about a statue in front of Heinz Field? Would the family have as much influence in the community as they do today? Heck, would Dan Rooney even be the ambassador to Ireland if it wasn't for the winning tradition that Noll helped to establish? Would the Rooney family even still own the team?
A different coach in '69 might have led to another decade of losing and maybe the Rooneys would have sold the team off to concentrate on horses. Would the team even have stayed in Pittsburgh?
Would Myron Cope have been the celebrity icon that he became without the championships? Myron always attributed his success to that of the Steelers.
And without Myron, there would be no Terrible Towels for us to twirl. Imagine life without the Terrible Towel.
And that brings me to the fans and the city of Pittsburgh. What would have happened to this city without the success of the Steelers in the 70's? The championships came along at a time when the city really needed them. The steel industry was dying and people started to move away. The Steelers helped us get through those days and sort of recreated our identity. We're now known as a sports city. If it wasn't for those Super Bowls, how would Pittsburgh be viewed today?
Speaking for myself, the Steelers have created a ton of memories. I look back on so many periods of my life, and there were the Steelers to keep me company. So many family gatherings. So many good times with my friends. How much different would my life be if I wasn't such a huge Steelers fan? Would I even care about sports at all? I might not be writing on this blog or any blog.
What would become of Steeler Nation, not just in Pittsburgh but around the world? Chances are, there wouldn't even be one. Just thousands of displaced Pittsburghers without a common Black and Gold bond.
Since this is a day for giving thanks, and since this is a sports blog, I'd just like to say thanks for everything, Emperor!