When the Pittsburgh Steelers take the field on Sunday, Sept. 7 to open their 2014 season against the Cleveland Browns, they will be wearing a decal on the back of their helmets.
It will be simple and understated, just like the man it’s to honor, and while there will be real meaning and emotion behind it, the decal alone won’t be the difference between victory and defeat because the man it’s to honor always taught preparation and execution and good fundamentals were the tools that won football games. Not decals. To him, things such as decals fell under the category of false bravado.
Next Sunday will be Chuck Noll Day, and as part of a season-long commemoration of his coaching career the players will wear decals on the backs of their helmets and the coaches will wear pins. The decals and the pins will be worn throughout the 2014 season.
“We wanted to do something,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II, “and after we talked about it internally that seemed to be the most appropriate thing we could do. The team will wear it the whole season.”
The significance of Noll’s NFL coaching career can be measured in those four Lombardi trophies, but what he meant to the Steelers franchise goes way beyond that.
“Chuck really provided a lot of the foundation that all of this – players, coaches, front office, owners – we are all still standing on that foundation,” said Rooney. “I think it’s important that we recognize that, and this is a great way to do it.”
It’s very possible that the outpouring of tributes paid to Noll following his death in June served to educate some of the younger generation to his contributions to the franchise. All players come to the Steelers uneducated to some degree about the franchise’s history, but it says something about the magnitude of Noll’s contributions that they learn as they’re here.
“It’s going to be incredible because of what Chuck Noll means,” said Brett Keisel. “You think of that name, Chuck Noll, you think of the Pittsburgh Steelers, you think of the four Super Bowls they won in the 1970s, the domination that was created by him. I’m always thinking about those guys he drafted and the mentality he instilled in them. It was the reason they were so good, because of the way they came and played together. It was all because of Chuck Noll. When you think about the Pittsburgh Steelers you think about championships and you think about Chuck Noll.”
Keisel, about to begin his 13th season with the franchise, is the most veteran player on this team, and one of its leaders. Heath Miller is going into his 10th and is a leader as well.
“From the first day I came to the Steelers organization I was always honored to put on the uniform and what it represented,” said Miller. “Coach Noll is a big part of establishing the pride and the honor we have in representing the Steelers organization because those teams laid the foundation for many, many more successful years to come. It’s neat we can pay our respects to him and let everyone know that we understand the Steelers organization represents success in the NFL, and he is the biggest part of that success.”
In addition to the wearing of the decals, a special presentation will be a part of Sunday’s festivities at Heinz Field.
“We are going to be presenting a helmet to Chuck’s widow, Marianne and Chuck’s son, Chris. They will be on the field. I know the fans will enjoy sharing that moment with them and having a chance to cheer Chuck one more time at least.”
(Teresa Varley contributed to this story.)