NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport confirmed Noll's death Friday night, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation. Noll died at his home of natural causes, per the Allegheny (Pennsylvania) County Medical Examiner's Office.
The Hall of Famer guided the Steelers from a laughingstock to one of the sport's great dynasties. When Noll took over the Steelers in 1969, Pittsburgh was the worst franchise in NFL history. The Steelers had suffered through 34 seasons, with a single playoff game to their record. The Rooney family was largely viewed as hapless in Pittsburgh.
"Chuck Noll is the best thing to happen to the Rooneys since they got on the boat in Ireland," said Art Rooney Jr., via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. (Rooney Jr. is the son of the team's founder.)
Noll's Steelers squad won only one game in his first season, and they had losing records for the following two years. But Noll began to build up his roster through incredible drafts. He was hired on January 27, 1969. The Steelersdrafted Mean Joe Greene the next day. The Steelers drafted Terry Bradshaw with the No. 1 overall pick the following year. By 1972, the Steelers went 11-3. They wound up winning four titles in six years before the decade was through, focusing on record-setting defense, running and Noll's prized fundamentals. Noll, known as a teacher above all, learned the coaching trade under Sid Gillman and Don Shula.
"In 1969, we decided we had to do certain things technically to win, and we decided to do them then, even though we knew some of the personnel couldn't do it. In other words, instead of adapting the system to the players, we just installed our system. Then we set out to fill our team through the draft," Noll once said via America's Game by Michael MacCambridge.
Noll wound up staying in Pittsburgh for 23 seasons, compiling a 209-156-1 record. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993, his first year of eligibility.
Unfairly overlooked when the names of the greatest coaches in NFL history are mentioned, Noll notably did not self-promote or seek out the spotlight. He was a man of few words, but his achievements will live on.