Skip links

Chuck Noll, Rocky Bleier and Retirement

In my opinion, Chuck Noll is one of the five greatest coaches in pro football history. My other four are Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, Paul Brown, and Tom Landry. Everybody else is second tier in comparison, although I might accept arguments on behalf of Sid Gillman. Noll likely learned exceptional amounts from both Brown, whom he played under, and Gillman, whom he coached with. Interestingly, Don Shula and Noll were teammates under Paul Brown. Noll later worked under Shula as an assistant in Baltimore, absorbing that painful Super Bowl 3 loss. Perhaps that loss still burned in Noll’s stomach while coaching the Steelers, and helped ensure his focus for their Super Bowls. Like I heard NBA champion Kurt Rambis say once, “You’ve gotta hate losing more than you love to win.”

In honor of Coach Noll, I’ve decided to post a story from The Game before the Money that Rocky Bleier shared. Rocky started considering retirement after Super Bowl 14. He decided to he would play one more year.

“I decided the next year, 1980, would be my last. The Steeler motto was ‘One for the thumb’ [a fifth Super Bowl ring.]

I said to Dan Rooney, “I think this will be my last year. I wanted to let you know if you need to make some decisions. Do you think I should tell Chuck?”

I didn’t really want to tell Chuck. Chuck was the type of guy who’d say, “If you’re thinking about retiring, then you’ve already retired. So why don’t you just leave now?”

Dan said, ‘Maybe we should wait.’ [Laughs.]”

Rocky did wait to tell Noll, Although the season ended as a disappointing one for the Steelers, for Bleier it gave him a full year to say “Farewell” to the game he loved so much. Noll coached another decade, through the 1991 season. Unfortunately, the Steelers only won 10 games once under Noll after their 12-4 championship season in 1979.

Coach Noll with Terry Bradshaw
Rocky scoring a go-ahead touchdown in Super Bowl 13, just before halftime.
Rocky scoring a go-ahead touchdown in Super Bowl 13, just before halftime.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.