Hall of Famer
Iowa coach Ferentz ‘idolized’ Chuck Noll
IOWA CITY — Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz grew up in Pittsburgh concurrently with the Steelers’ rise to NFL dominance. So it comes as no surprise that Ferentz has immense respect for former Steelers Coach Chuck Noll. Noll, the only coach to win four Super Bowls, died last Friday at age 82.
The former Steelers coach influenced Ferentz, who decided as a high school sophomore he wanted to coach and teach for a living. “It’s fair to say he was an idol of mine, somebody I idolized,” Ferentz said. “When I was in college, my dad would send me — we didn’t have the Internet back then — but he’d send me the sports section from the Pittsburgh papers for seven days every week. I read every article. I still have got a lot of them in my file right there. I’ve got everything that’s been written over the last several days.”
Ferentz said Noll influenced him as a coach simply by listening to him speak. Ferentz, who enters his 16th season as Iowa’s football coach, remembers a 1995 clinic at Robert Morris College in Pittsburgh led by former Steelers assistants Dan Radakovich and Joe Walton.
Ferentz was the Cleveland Browns’ offensive line coach and worked under Bill Belichick at the time.“I got to hear Coach Noll talk about the art of hitting for 50 minutes,” Ferentz said. “For me that was a thrill. Maybe not for everyone else, but for me that was a thrill. I was just mesmerized that an NFL coach could talk for 50 straight minutes just about technique and fundamentals. If you watched their team play, that was the trademark of their team.”
Noll coached the Steelers from 1969-1991. He was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993 and was 209-156-1 as the Steelers’ coach.The Pittsburgh Steelers also influenced Iowa football late in the 1970s. Iowa Coach Hayden Fry patterned the Hawkeyes’ uniforms after the Steelers so the team could look like champions.
“To me he stands for what’s good in coaching,” Ferentz said. “So to grow up in that town was just a lucky coincidence, and I’ve been lucky along the way.”
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Robinson: Five Very Important Chuck Noll Wins as Steelers Coach
June 18, 2014 by Alan Robinson
When a coach has 193 career wins – and 209, counting the playoffs — as Chuck Noll did, some games are certain to stand above the others. In Noll’s case, a lot of them do, because the Steelers won 14 playoff games just in the 1970s, in addition to experiencing seven seasons of 10 wins or more.
Narrowing down the list to the five best is difficult and, of course, is subjective – one man’s top win is another man’s No. 10.
But here is a list of five exceptional Noll-led wins – and not all of them were in the Super Bowl.
1-STEELERS 24, Raiders 13, at Oakland, AFC Championship Game, Dec. 29, 1974. Maybe the Steelers took the first step towards becoming the Team of the Decade with the Immaculate Reception and an 11-3 record two seasons before in 1972, but this is the game that started their playoff dominance. First, look at the date – nearly a month sooner than AFC title games are played today; the NFL played only a 14-game schedule, so the regular season was over by Dec. 15. There was no week off between the end of the season and the division playoffs, either, so there was little time for regrouping.The week before, the Steelers routed the Bills and O.J. Simpson, 32-14, in the divisional playoffs at Three Rivers Stadium (the following season, Simpson would rush for 227 yards and a TD as Buffalo came back to Pittsburgh and won, 30-21). The Raiders were favored after beating the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Dolphins the week before in a game that was billed as the “real” AFC title game. It wasn’t, as Joe Greene explains.
“It was Monday (the day after the Bills game). He (Noll) made a comment about the Oakland-Miami, and how it was being called a championship game even though it was only a divisional game. And he said those people in Oakland said the championship game was played yesterday, that the best two teams in football had played. He said, ‘I want you guys to know that the Super Bowl is played three weeks from now. And the best team in football is sitting right here in this room.’ That statement doesn’t mean a whole lot if he said something like that every week. Chuck never said anything like that prior to that or after that. Not in that way. That was a great impetus for us winning that football game. The Raiders up to that point had been a nemesis for us. At that point in time the Raiders, after Chuck talked to us, they had no chance of winning that ball game. I felt that feeling never changed throughout the course of our preparation and during the game.”
The Raiders had won in Pittsburgh, 17-0, earlier in the season. But the Steelers dominated the fourth quarter of the title game after trailing 10-3 after three quarters, getting three touchdowns – a pair of Franco Harris runs and a Terry Bradshaw to Lynn Swann TD pass play of 6 yards. The Raiders ran for only 29 yards on 21 carries – it was one of the first big days by the Steel Curtain – and Ken “the Snake” Stabler threw three interceptions on his home turf.
“They just weren’t going to win the game,” Greene said.
The Raiders didn’t the next season, either, losing, 16-10, despite seven Steelers turnovers in the AFC title game at icy Three Rivers Stadium.
2-STEELERS 35, Cowboys 31, Super Bowl, at Miami, Jan. 21, 1979. One of the best-played Super Bowl games – and most entertaining – even though the Steelers narrowly missed squandering an 18-point lead after they made it 35-17 in the fourth quarter. The Steelers won a third Super Bowl under Noll and denied Tom Landry a third with the Cowboys. The Steelers also bounced back after losing to the Raiders in the 1976 AFC title game and having a 9-5 record in 1977, the year of the Noll “criminal element” trial involving the Raiders’ George Atkinson. Last year, a nationwide panel of experts picked the 1978 Steelers as the greatest team in franchise history for the Trib.
This is the game that began to establish the Steelers as one of the great teams of all time. If they’d won on the 1974 and 1975 Super Bowls, they would have been viewed as a very good team – but winning a third made people realize this was a very special team. They followed it up by winning the 1979 season Super Bowl over the Los Angeles Rams in Pasadena, the first time that one of the participants was essentially a home team.
3-STEELERS 27, Oilers 13. AFC Championship Game, at Three Rivers Stadium, Jan. 6, 1980. This game would be the springboard for the Steelers’ fourth Super Bowl – and for the NFL adopting instant replay. The Steelers beat the Oilers in the AFC title game at rainy, icy Three Rivers the season before, and then manhandled them again 35-7 early in the 1979 season. But the Oilers prevailed, 20-17, in a Monday night game in Houston, and Oilers coach Bum Phillips had promised to “kick down the door” to allow the Oilers to get past the rival Steelers. After upsetting the favored Chargers the week before, the Oilers looked like they might do it when they opened a 7-0 lead. But after a pair of touchdown drives put the Steelers ahead 17-10, Dan Pastorini tossed what looked to be a tying, 6-yard touchdown pass to Mike Renfro in the back of the end zone in the third quarter. But Renfro was ruled to be out of bounds, even though it appeared he made the catch with inches to spare, and the Steelers – the momentum now on their side – went on to score the final 10 points. It took a few more years, but the Renfro play was cited frequently as a reason the NFL ultimately adopted instant replay.
4-STEELERS 21, Cowboys 17, Super Bowl, at Miami, Jan. 18, 1976. It almost seems unfair to list two Cowboys-Steelers games here, yet both were extremely pivotal to the Steelers becoming known as the Team of the Decade. First, the 1975 Steelers clearly were the best team in franchise history to that time; they went 12-2 during the season, and one of the losses was a meaningless, end-of-season Saturday loss at Los Angeles. The Steelers were 12-1 at the time. Second, both the AFC title game (the 16-10, glare-ice win over the Raiders at Three Rivers) and the Super Bowl were extremely competitive games that could have gone either way; lose either, and the Steelers probably aren’t remembered as arguably the best team of all time. They had only two regular-season losses in each of the two seasons they met the Cowboys in the Super Bowl, and those teams arguably were the two best of the Noll era (the 1978 team went 14-2).This was the game that featured two acrobatic and almost impossible-to-make catches by Lynn Swann; if he doesn’t make these catches, he might not be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The two Cowboys-Steelers Super Bowls are often cited as being two of the best of all time because they featured the NFL’s two most popular teams at the time and two distinct styles, the Cowboys’ always-effective offense and the Steelers’ blanketing, Steel Curtain defense. Classic matchups, classic games. Want to know how those two Cowboys games resonate in Dallas to this day? When Noll died Friday, the Dallas Morning News headline the next day referred to him as the coach who beat the Cowboys in two 1970s-ers Super Bowls – not as the only coach to win four Super Bowls.
5-STEELERS 34, Raiders 28, at Three Rivers Stadium, Sept. 17, 1972. Surprised this game is on the list? You shouldn’t be. This was the first big high-quality win for the Steelers under Noll after they went 12-30 in his first three seasons. It quickly established the 1972 Steelers weren’t the same old Steelers of the past four decades, and it helped give them the confidence and momentum to go on to a 11-3 record – easily the best in franchise history.There’s also this – for all of the Raiders’ complaining about how they were robbed in the Immaculate Reception AFC title game that would follow 3 ½ months later, they never cite the fact they lost to the Steelers TWICE that season – so much for the fluke element. The Steelers opened up leads of 17-0 and 34-14 as Terry Bradshaw RAN for two touchdowns, then held on despite two late Raiders touchdowns. This was Franco Harris’; first NFL game, and he would carry 10 times for only 28 yards and catch two passes. The next time he faced the Raiders, he was a much, much bigger factor. Oh, and after this game – for the first time in Steelers history – it became difficult to get tickets for regular season games. They began selling out every game starting that season, a streak that continues through today.
Regarding the 5 most important wins- It's neat to see everyone's different perspectives... I have a few, but to me, the most important win was during a season way after the Super Bowls were won...
Imagine our beloved Steelers coming off of a 5-11 season and they opened the new year with a 51-0 drubbing by the hated Browns and then the following week we lost 41-10 to the Bengals. Panic! Just think if that happened today, with the internet age- we'd be calling for Tomlin's head.....
The biggest win, to me, came in week 3 of the 1989 season. Noll turned things around and the Steelers beat the Vikings 27-14....... 2nd biggest win was in the playoffs that year when we beat Houston in OT 26-23..... What a magical season, even though we didn't make the SB- we almost beat Denver. The team was on the verge of mailing it in so early in the season, but that staff held them together....I'll never forget that.....
Last edited by pfelix73; 06-19-2014 at 10:29 AM.
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It's unfair to criticize Bradshaw for his absence at Noll's funeral
By Anthony Defeo on Jun 24 2014
Former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw didn't attend Chuck Noll's funeral last week. This decision naturally wasn't very popular among certain fans and media members, many of whom consider the decision to be a show of disrespect for Noll and the Steelers organization. However, a decision to attend a funeral is a private matter, and nobody has the right to judge.
Like any other working citizen, when a professional athlete screws up on the job, he should expect to get criticized, and rightfully so.
But unlike your average citizen, a professional athlete doesn't just have to deal with the slings and arrows from his boss; he must also face the scrutiny and the wrath of the fans and the media after a job not so well done.
This comes with the territory, and anyone who has designs on a life's work in the very bright spotlight that is professional sports should know that he or she must learn to deal with criticism (within reason, anyway).
However, should that criticism extend to matters away from the bright lights of the playing field, court or rink?
Should very private affairs be the target for fan and media wrath?
I guess the answer to that question is "yes," because a professional athlete's private life is often brought out into the open for public inspection.
When it comes to matters that effect a player's ability to help his team, the inspection is probably warranted. But when it comes to things such as a person's decision to attend or not to attend a funeral, what right does anyone have to judge that choice?
Just before my 22nd birthday, my grandfather passed away. I had never had to deal with a close family member's death before, so this was a very traumatizing thing for me.
Maybe foolishly, I decided to skip out on the viewings and the funeral because I didn't want to deal with all that it would entail, particularly the emotions that would surely be on display among family, friends and, yes, Yours truly.
You would have never known about my decision had I not shared that with you in this article, but I never won four Super Bowls, so how could you know?
Perhaps not surprisingly, Steelers Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw did not attend Chuck Noll's funeral last week, and naturally, this was seen by many as yet another indication of Bradshaw's long-held resentment for his former coach.
This is just speculation, of course, but it's highly doubtful Bradshaw's decision to not attend Noll's funeral had anything to do with hatred or resentment.
"Yes, but how could he not show up to pay his respects?"
How could I not show up to pay respects to my grandfather? If anyone was more in the wrong for not attending a funeral, it was me, but I have yet to face a single second of criticism from people for a decision I made two decades ago.
Unfortunately for Bradshaw, he's already suffered through 26 years of scrutiny for his decision to not attend the funeral for Art Rooney, Sr, the late Steelers founder and a person No. 12 has always talked about glowingly. Now, he faces many years of criticism (and maybe regret) for his decision to not attend Noll's.
Maybe Bradshaw didn't attend the funeral out of respect for Noll's family. It was no secret that the relationship between Noll and his former quarterback was icy, at best. Sure, this had more to do with the quarterback's insecurities than anything else, but this wouldn't have stopped reporters from maybe asking questions that could have placed Bradshaw in a tough spot. And if he were to answer the questions honestly, this may have been seen as a slight and disrespectful in the eyes of the public.
Perhaps Bradshaw didn't attend Noll's funeral because, just like a lot of us, he viewed his time with the Steelers (a time that ended three decades ago) as just another chapter in his life.
Sure, it was a great chapter, a chapter that made Bradshaw who he is today and has allowed him to earn millions as a public figure, but it was still just one chapter of a life that has reached its seventh decade.
While passionate fans of a team are always "current" (even when it comes to games that were played decades ago), it's easy to forget that some players don't always like to re-live their careers, and some of them move on almost immediately after retirement.
Also, Bradshaw has always suffered from emotional problems--including clinical depression--and it's highly possible this may have influenced his decision not to attend.
At the end of the day, only Terry Bradshaw knows why he didn't attend Chuck Noll's funeral, and for anyone to just assume that it was a deliberate show of disrespect is being very unfair.