Chuck Noll - 1976


From the October 10th Pro! magazine for the Steelers' game at the Browns:

Chuck Noll 1976 media guide photoThe late Vince Lombardi used to say that it was easier to get to the top in professional football than to stay there. The Steelers have been in the driver's seat two straight seasons and are after a third straight trip to the Super Bowl.

They are off to a much slower start (1-3) than anticipated, however. And Chuck Noll is facing the problem that Lombardi talked about.

The former guard and linebacker for the Browns already has established himself as one of the top brains in the coaching field and it will be interesting to see how he meets this new challenge.

One thing seems certain. He will go about the task coolly and quietly without any flourish. That's his style over the years through the seasons of defeat and the heady autumns and winters of victory.

Noll hasn't been in the limelight despite his great success as a coach. The players get the accolades and Noll is happy with this.

"I'm not an image guy," Chuck tells reporters, some of whom complain that he doesn't talk enough. "I guess you guys don't think I'm loquacious enough."

"The mouth is the mirror to the mind. If you keep your mouth shut, people don't know what's on your mind. I don't like publicity. I don't need it to survive. That's not the way I was brought up."

These sentiments of Noll may be a throw­back to his days on the Browns. Paul Brown didn't believe in saying too much himself and he encouraged his players to say only the non-controversial things when they did talk.

As Chuck attempts to bring his club back, he undoubtedly will draw from Brown and the many other astute football people with whom he has been associated. He and John Madden, successful coach of the Oakland Raiders, for instance, were in San Diego at the same time.

Madden was at San Diego State. Noll was on Sid Gillman's staff with the San Diego Chargers. Then, of course, Noll was with Don Shula at Baltimore before being tapped to revive the long dormant Steelers.

Now as he tries to swing the Pittsburgh club around again, it seems certain that he will consult a number of people. He works rather closely with Dan Rooney, the young president of the Steelers.

"Chuck fits into an organization," Rooney has said. "He didn't come in with the idea he was going to fight things. We made some good changes he recommended. but he didn't think we were doing everything wrong just because we were losing. We don't have a situation where people aren't telling each other what happened."

1976 advert from media guideThere has been a big turnover of assistant coaches since Noll arrived in Pittsburgh. Now he appears to have a group which is very compatible. They are sure to make big contributions to the new situation in Pittsburgh.

"A lot of winning coaches start accepting appearances and begin running in circles with prominent people and seem to forget their assistants," one aide said recently. "Chuck has grown closer to his staff. No man could treat us better."

The players also have confidence in his ability to get the job done. He claims to be emotional but has a quiet manner that breeds confidence in the people who work for him.

Regarding emotion, he says, "Everybody in this game is loaded with emotion. That doesn't mean you have to show it on your sleeve."

Many close observers of the Super Bowl champions believe that Noll has a teacher-student relationship with his players. The coach once put it this way. "What if professors had to get their own source material, write their own books, recruit their own students and hold their tests in front of 50,000 people.

"And if the students flunked, the professor would get fired."

Noll's pupils appear to have the physical ability to make the playoffs again. The bulk of the squad is much the same as the one that went to the Super Bowl twice.

Joe Greene, still bothered by a neck injury, may not be quite the dominant figure of the past. However, Steve Furness is a first rate defensive replacement.

The club has had some injuries, particularly at the wide receivers. There also is some aging. Ray Mansfield, the long time center, and Andy Russell, a veteran linebacker, are playing their final seasons.

The main problem, however, could be psychological. Football is a game of emotion. It may be that the Pittsburgh old timers don't have the same feeling of two years ago. They no longer may be quite as hungry for victory and the big checks that go with it.

Whatever the situation, the Steelers aren't a sure thing to represent the American Football Conference in Pasadena in January. The Oakland Raiders, who uncovered some Pittsburgh weaknesses in that opening victory, are starving for another trip to the Super Bowl.

Some new powers are rising in the conference, too. Teams such as the Baltimore Colts, the New England Patriots, the San Diego Chargers, the Houston Oilers and the Cincinnati Bengals are ready to move up and take advantage of any slipping. Noll is fully aware of this. The coach will do everything he can to put off the inevitable.

The law of gravity certainly applies to the NFL, however. What goes up must come down. And the Steelers have been up longer than most champions of the past.

Editor's note: the Steelers lost this game 16-18 to go 1-4 on the season before stringing 9 victories together to finish the season 10-4.

Having spanked the Colts in the first game of the playoffs, the Steelers lost Rocky Bleier and Franco Harris to injury and went on to Oakland to lose the AFC Championship game.


September 12th Steelers 28
Oakland 31
September 19th Steelers 31
Cleveland 14
September 26th Steelers 27
New England 30
October 4th Steelers 6
Minnesota 17
October 10th Steelers 16
Cleveland 18
October 17th Steelers 23
Cincinnati 6
October 24th Steelers 27
New York Giants 0
October 31st Steelers 23
San Diego 0
November 7th Steelers 45
Kansas City 0
November 14th Steelers 14
Miami 3
November 21st Steelers 32
Houston 16
November 28th Steelers 7
Cincinnati 3
December 5th Steelers 42
Tampa Bay 0
December 11th Steelers 21
Houston 0
December 19th Steelers 40
Baltimore 14
AFC Championship Game
December 29th Steelers 7
Oakland 24

Chuck Noll's seventh draft:

  1.    Bennie Cunningham (TE), Clemson
  2.    Ray  Pinney (C), Washington (choice from Chicago)
  2b.  Mike Kruczek (OB), Boston College (choice from Baltimore)
  2c.  James Files (G-C), McNeese State
  3.    Ron Coder (DT), Penn State (choice from Green Bay)
  3b.  Ernest Pough (WR), Texas Southern
  4.    Wonder Monds (S), Nebraska (choice from Baltimore)
  4b.  Theo Bell (WR), Arizona. S. Norton, Rodney (LB), Rice
  6.    Gary Dunn (DT), Miami (Florida), (choice from St. Louis)
  6b.  Jack Deloplaine (RB), Salem (West Virginia.)
  7.    Barry Burton (TE), Vanderbilt
  8.    Ed McAleney (DE), Massachusetts
  9.    Wentford Gaines (CB), Cincinnati
10.   Gary Campbell (LB), Colorado
11.   Rolland Fuchs (RB), Arkansas
12.   Bill Carroll (WR), East Texas State
13.   Larry Kain (LB), Ohio State
14.   Wayne Fields,(OB), Florida
15.   Mel Davis (DE), North Texas State
16.   Randy Butts (RB), Kearney State
17.   Kelvin Kirk (WR), Dayton

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