Former Steelers’ offensive tackle Tunch Ilkin was a great player for the black and gold as a sixth-round pick out of Indiana State in the 1980 NFL Draft. But as great as he was on the field, he may be an even better sports broadcaster.
During each and every season, he can be heard on the official Steelers’ broadcast team along with another ex-Steeler, Craig Wolfley, breaking down games, players, draft picks and giving analysis and feedback in a way that only Ilkin can. On Thursday, Tunch took time out of his busy schedule to chat with fans on a conference call and he held nothing back in displaying his anticipation and excitement for the franchise this upcoming season.
Like 99 percent of the other analysts this offseason, they’re pointing to the Pittsburgh offense, mainly the skill positions, as a major reason why the unit will be near the top of the league this year. Ilkin agrees but he hums a different tune, arguing it will be dictated by the big uglies up front.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a franchise signal-caller behind center, and in Ben Roethlisberger the team has one of the best in the business. Any team with Super Bowl aspirations, save for maybe the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, needs a stud orchestrating the offense and there’s a reason quarterbacks are the highest-paid players in the league.
“Ben is playing at a level that is off the charts and part of that is his physical game has not suffered any as he has matured, and yet his mental and emotional maturity and his understanding of the game is probably at its peak,” Ilkin said.
With training camp a mere few short weeks away, nobody is as pumped up as Ilkin. Although most fans will never get a “Hard Knocks”-type look into the Steelers’ locker room like Ilkin, he still has a few memorable moments where he was star struck by the likes of Jack Lambert, Joe Greene or L.C. Greenwood.
“I remember asking myself if it was appropriate to get an autograph because if I got cut I didn’t want to go home empty-handed,” Ilkin said with a laugh, according to Steelers.com.
He also humorously notes how more fans showed up at a single day of training camp than one of his games in college, but the moment turned surreal when he realized the organization he was a part of, noting the Hall of Famers and Lombardi’s in the trophy case.
He ended the chat on a positive note, shedding some praise towards a maligned defensive unit that, according to many, looks to be the team’s Achilles’ heel next season.