From the PG Archives: On his day in spotlight, Noll cites others for success

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This story from the Post-Gazette archives was first published on August 1, 1993.

CANTON, OHIO -- Chuck Noll went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame yesterday the same way he coached for 23 seasons with the Steelers -- giving the credit to others, revealing little of his personal feelings and offering one last lesson in football and in life.

But Noll did not go in quietly.

The large number of Steelers fans who surrounded the front steps of the Hall of Fame wouldn't let him.

They stood and cheered wildly, chanting their favorite refrain -- "Here we go, Steelers, here we go" -- when Noll was presented by Steelers owner Dan Rooney. When Noll motioned to the crowd and referred to it as "three-quarters of Pittsburgh," they erupted again.

Noll, the only coach in National Football League history to win four Super Bowls, becomes the eighth member of the great Steelers teams of the '70s to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He was joined on the steps of pro football's most famous shrine by former Hall of Fame players Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Franco Harris and Mel Blount.

"All the people on that team deserve to belong here, they all deserve to be enshrined in Canton because he led them to greatness and they were the best," Rooney said in his presentation speech. "Today is most important because the leader is here."

Rooney, who flew in from Barcelona, Spain, to present the man he hired in 1969, was effusive in his praise for Noll and often incited the crowd with his stirring references to the glory days of the '70s.

In fact, in almost Michael Buffer-like fashion, Rooney worked the crowd into a near frenzy at the end of his presentation speech. With his voice beginning to rise, Rooney said:

"I would like to thank him for what he did for all of us. Pittsburgh became the most livable city. The Steelers were the standard which every team in the National Football League tried to emulate. All of us became committed to being the best, including the fans. It was a special time. It was fun when the road to the Super Bowl ended in Pittsburgh."

Noll, as expected, was more reserved, thanking the coaches who hired him as an assistant in the 1960s -- Sid Gillman in San Diego, Don Shula in Baltimore -- and thanking the Steelers for giving him an opportunity and helping to create "atmosphere, which is big" in the city.

In fact, about the only slip Noll made was when he said the Steelers won the first game they played in Three Rivers Stadium, against the New York Jets. Actually, it was the New York Giants.

Noll was one of five people enshrined during yesterday's late-morning ceremonies, joining former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton, former San Diego Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts, former Miami Dolphins guard Larry Little and former San Francisco 49ers Coach Bill Walsh.

"We had a lot of people going through this whole thing that I'm grateful to," Noll said. "I'm grateful to the coaches I've had, grateful to the players whom I've worked with. The path to some very good things happened because of these people."

Never one to use a public forum to air his personal feelings or emotions, Noll didn't waver from that yesterday, even in this setting. He never mentioned the people closest to him -- his wife, Marianne, son Chris, and daughter-in-law, Linda -- during his 11-minute acceptance speech. Also, Noll never mentioned that the week's festivities had a twinge of sadness because one of his son's best friends was killed in a skydiving accident in Rhode Island.

"The single most important thing we had in the Steelers of the 1970s was an ability to work together," Noll said. "The thing that stuck out was we had a lot of people who didn't worry about what somebody else did. If someone else was having a tough time on a particular day, they reached down and got it up a little more. They got the thing done. Whatever they had to do, they did to win. There was never a reason to let down.

"Right now you hear about teamwork and it's defined as 50-50, and that is a falsehood. There's no such thing as 50-50. You do whatever you have to do as part of the team. You may have to carry somebody."

Noll then ended his speech in rousing and somewhat dramatic fashion, doing what he passionately did when he posted 209 career victories, nine AFC Central Division titles and a 4-0 record in the Super Bowl -- equating football to life. Society, Noll said, could stand some of the Steelers' teamwork and togetherness.

"Right now, in a society of confrontation, we got male against female, we got black against white, we got labor against management," Noll said. "The shame of it is, some people have made progress through confrontation.

"I can't tell you how much you gain, how much progress you can make, by working together as a team, by helping one another. You get much more done that way. If there's anything the Steelers of the '70s epitomized, I think it was that teamwork."


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