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The Emperor

January 23, 2009 - John Mehno

You'll see a lot of Steelers coverage next week, and some of it will center around the teams that won four Super Bowls in six seasons from 1974-79.

The networks will track down old Steelers to talk about those days. It's doubtful you'll see Chuck Noll, though. The coach of those teams is something of a recluse these days, out of the spotlight entirely. There's a pretty good piece here

that explains his desire for privacy. Avoiding the media is one thing: Noll never had a great fondness for a lot of attention. But he's also remained insulated from former players and colleagues, too.

When the Indianapolis Colts went to the Super Bowl two years ago, Tony Dungy placed a call to Noll. Dungy wanted to thank Noll for believing in him as a player and a coach and being a major influence on his life. Marianne Noll answered the phone and thanked Dungy for the kind words. But she didn't put Chuck on the phone with Dungy.

There have been rumors about Noll's health beyond the obvious back problems that are a holdover from his playing career. He did an autograph show in North Carolina last summer and seemed to be in good spirits, so who knows?

Noll used to laugh at questions about his legacy or his place in NFL history. He considered himself a teacher who went to work every year, and his enthusiasm for the subject matter never waned. Remember the teachers who could make U.S. history interesting to a new class, even though they'd been teaching for 30 years? That was Chuck Noll with football.

He once said, "Don't leave anything behind but your footprints on the beach." Now he's living it.

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