PG Archives: Noll Gets Three Years to Build Steelers

Written by Dan Gigler on .

It may sound like hyperbole to suggest that a city's history could be permanently altered by the hiring of a football coach, but when that city is Pittsburgh, and that coach was Chuck Noll, then the notion moves from outlandish to accepted fact. 

Read about the day that he arrived in Pittsburgh 45 years ago below, plus a well wish from his former coach and links to Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Press coverage of other key moments in Noll's career. 

noll hired36-year old Dan Rooney & 37-year old Chuck Noll in Jan. 1969

Tuesday, January 28, 1969

Noll Gets Three Years to Build Steelers

Baltimore Aide Accepts Post As Draft Nears

New Coach, an Ex-Brown Star, Hints He Won’t Pick Hanratty; Taylor May Stay as Assistant

By Jack Sell / Post-Gazette Sports Writer

The Pittsburgh Steelers, never a champ in 36 National Football League seasons, yesterday signed their 15th coach in Chuck Noll, 37, a defensive aide with the Baltimore Colts for the past three years.

A graduate of Dayton University and a former Cleveland Browns star, Noll succeeds Bill Austin, whose dismal 11-28-3 record the past three campaigns brought his dismissal. Noll was given a three-year contract. No salary was disclosed.

The formal introduction required a doubleheader announcement. His name was released at an 11 a.m. press conference in Hotel Roosevelt, but plane difficulties in Baltimore kept Noll grounded. He finally met with writers at 4 p.m.

“I contacted Chuck for the first time the day after the Super Bowl game in Miami,” Vice President Dan Rooney reported. “Then he came here last Monday for an extended interview. Aside from Joe Paterno of Penn State, who turned us down, the job was not offered to anyone else. We expect to get five top college players in the draft this week.”

Noll admitted that he was also contacted by Billy Sullivan of the AFL’s Boston Patriots after he had talked to young Rooney in Miami.

“Howver, I haven’t heard from them since,” he revealed. “This morning my wife answered the phone about 8 o’ clock. It was Dan Rooney calling to say he wanted me for the Steeler job. I am very happy to take it.”

First big task will be the combined NFL-AFL draft which will start today. The local pros own the No. 4 choice.

“I’ll be looking at films and reviewing data on Steeler personnel until late tonight,” Noll declared. “I want to be able to bolster weak spots on the roster.”

Asked point blank if he would draft Terry Hanratty, quarterback from Notre Dame and Butler, Pa., Noll hedged. He pointed out that it takes several years at least for a QB to develop in the pros and that his new club needs immediate help.

“Hanratty will almost certainly be in the College All-Star game and miss important training camp sessions,” Noll asserted.

Chuck insisted he would not approach any of the Baltimore assistants for his staff.

“That would not be fair to Coach Don Shula,” Noll said. “I do plan to talk to Steelers assistants. I worked with Bones Taylor one season on the staff of the San Diego Chargers.”

The new tutor said he phoned several perspective aides right after he got the welcome message from Rooney. But his big problem right now is the draft.

Noll was born on Jan. 5, 1932 and is the third-youngest head mentor in the pros. The two juniors both were born in this city, Dick Nolan of the San Francisco Forty Niners, on March 26, 1932 and Joe Schmidt of the Detroit Lions on Jan. 18, 1932.

Chuck started his grid career as a fullback and guard at Benedictine High in Cleveland, then played guard and tackle at Dayton University, where he’s entered in the school’s Hall of Fame.

From 1953 through 1959 Noll was a guard and linebacker with the Cleveland Browns.

“When I felt my pro career was near an end I applied for the coaching post at Dayton, which was open,” Noll said yesterday. “Stan Zajdel, who had been interviewed earlier, got the job.”

The disappointed Noll caught on with the Los Angeles (later the San Diego ) Chargers under coach Sid Gillman, who had seen him play at Dayton when Sid was the boss at the University of Cincinnati. In six years Noll stayed on the west coast the Chargers won five Western division titles.

In 1966 he joined the Colts under Shula, a former teammate with the Cleveland Browns.

Yesterday he was jokingly asked if he would be the coach who whitewashed the Browns, 34-0, in the NFL Championship game or the one who lost in the Super Bowl to the New York Jets, 16-7.

“The Colts just didn’t make the big plays in Miami,” Noll asserted.

He gave a new slant on the flea-flicker play which found Earl Morrall failing to pass to Jimmy Orr, who was wide open. The Colt QB handed off to Tom Matte, then caught a lateral from the halfback and threw toward Jerry Hill. It was the last play of the first half. Jim Hudson intercepted for the Jets on his own 12-yard line.

“We had scored on the same play against Atlanta,” Noll recalled. “When Morrall came off the field he said that he couldn’t locate Orr because a band in blue uniforms was behind the goal line, waiting to march on the field for half-time ceremonies.”

Noll had an answer to the “same old Steelers” cry which has plagued Rooney U. for years.

“I just don’t believe that any certain area is doomed to have losers,” he declared.

Dan Rooney, in announcing the three-year contract, said: “We hope to keep him forever. I got that quote from Casimir Mylinski of Pitt.”

Praises Noll: Paul Brown Big Booster of New Man

Dayton, Ohio, Jan. 27 (AP) – Chuck Noll the Pittsburgh Steelers new head football coach, once said of coaching:

“You are a writer, teacher, salesman, administrator and recruiter. That makes it so interesting.”

Noll, 37, named today to head the Steelers, should know what he’s talking about. He has had nine years of coaching experience since retiring from the Cleveland Browns.

After graduating from Benedictine High School in Cleveland, Noll played for the University of Dayton as a tackle and a linebacker.

In 1951 he was a member of the only Dayton squad to play in a bowl game – the Salad Bowl in Phoenix – and in 1952 he became co-captain of the team.

After graduation in 1953, Noll joined the Browns. Although he was the Browns 21st draft choice, Noll made the team and became Coach Paul Brown’s messenger guard.

“He carried in the plays, but he could’ve called them as well as we did,” Brown said Monday night in recalling Noll’s years with the team.

“Keep in mind he was not a big guy,” Brown said. Noll was an even 6 feet and weighed 210 when with the Browns.

“This boy is a good one,” Brown said of Noll. “He is a smart young man. He is very well organized.”

Noll played with the Browns for seven seasons, the last three as a linebacker.

Brown said he was “tickled” to see Steeler owner Art Rooney get a man “with such high character. He, Rooney, deserves to have this thing go up, and I can’t think of a better man than Chuck to do the job.”


SUPER BOWL IX: Pittsburgh Press Jan. 13, 1975: 'Knute' Noll's Patience Paid Off By Using Whatever It Took

SUPER BOWL XIV: Post-Gazette, Jan. 21, 1980: Noll Says Steelers' Performance Proved They're Best in the Nation

Retirement: Post-Gazette, Dec. 27, 1991: The Curtain Falls: Steelers' Noll decides it's time to get on with life's work

Canton enshrinement: Post-Gazette, July 30, 1993: Noll's journey to greatness stops in Canton


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