Why forgetting Steelers coach Chuck Noll is unacceptable

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Time shouldn't erase the amazing accomplishments of Chuck Noll

"A life of frustration is inevitable for any coach whose main enjoyment is winning."

Chuck Noll didn't have a plethora of quotable speeches, but this quote above from the former Steelers coach helps to understand his coaching philosophy.

Winning football games wasn't Noll's top priority. And yet, no won else won like he did.

The only coach to win four Super Bowls. Took a 1-13 team in 1969 to the AFC Championship game just three years later. The third coach to win back-to-back Super Bowls. The only coach do accomplish that feat twice. The only coach to win four Super Bowls in six years. Pro Football Hall-of-Famer just one year after his retirement.

Noll's coaching philosophy was to build leaders out of men that could work together to accomplish a common goal. And during the process, the young men would not only grow as football players but as successfull members of society. He always told his players to focus on "their life's work", and he wasn't talking about their lives as football players.

Behind his stoic demeanor and businesslike approach to coaching, Noll cared about his players. He wanted them to be ready for the rest of their lives after there were no more games left to play. Through this process, Noll and the players developed a bond that endures to this day.

Noll got his players to believe in themselves, the process, and the team. He made being successful on the football field and in life an expectation rather than a hope.  The Steelers took that belief and became the best football team ever assembled. Then they took it into their post football lives and won some more.

They raised families. They ran businesses. They joined the media. They jumped into politics. They got on with their life's work.

And they came back to see each other. They returned for the last game at Three Rivers Stadium and at Heinz Field for the 25th anniversary of their last Super Bowl win. They celebrated with each other each time one of their brothers were immortalized in Canton. They mourn together when one of their brother's life's work has been completed.

"Whatever it takes" was another Chuck Noll-ism during the 1970s. No matter what it took, the Steelers in those days did what it took to win those championships. Whether it took an Immaculate Reception, a balletic catch, a late interception, a critical fourth down stop, the Steelers just did it. And when they faced similar challenges in life, they did whatever it took again.

While the 70s Steelers retired and went into their life's work in the 80s, Noll continued on with his football life. One of the most remarkable things about Noll was that he kept the Steelers competitive despite a near complete overhaul of players and personnel. While Greene, Franco, Mel, Terry, and others were getting fitted for their gold jackets, Noll was teaching the next generation of players about football and their life's work.

Noll retired after the 1991 season after 23 years on the job. He transformed a morbid franchise into football royalty, made Pittsburgh a passionate and proud pro football town, and helped mold young men into champions on and off the field.

In the book "Their Life's Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers", author Gary Pomerantz writes about how Chuck Noll would run back and forth during practice between the huddle and Browns coach Paul Brown's car during cold practices. Brown would lower the window, read a play to Noll, then roll the window back up as the young linemen raced back to recite the play to his teammates.

Some 60 years later, the two are together again, but this time, it's not on a football practice field in Cleveland. It's beside each other sitting atop the Mount Rushmore of NFL coaches.

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