It was 50 years ago to the day yesterday that the Pittsburgh Steelers officially hired Chuck Noll to be their next head. I’m sure that you saw the articles posted on this subject on the day. Little did they realize how transformative it would be, nor that they would only hire two more men to serve as head coach over the course of the next half-century.
The Steelers only won but one game in Noll’s first season as head coach in 1969—not that they had had much experience winning games prior to his arrival. But it wouldn’t be long before he and those around him would begin to turn things around. They would win their first postseason game in franchise history in 1972. In 1974, they would become champions. And then again in 1975. In 1978, the Steelers became the first franchise in NFL history to win the Super Bowl three times, and they added a fourth for good measure in the year following.
Though he continued to coach the Steelers for another dozen-odd years after that, Noll would never make it back to the Super Bowl, but his successor, Bill Cowher, would. As would Cowher’s successor, Mike Tomlin. Each of the three have added to the display case in the South Side facility that plays host to the organization’s NFL-record six Lombardi trophies, and only the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys can claim to have done so under three different head coaches.
Each of these men have taken the Steelers to the Super Bowl on multiple occasions, something that neither the head coaches of the Packers or Cowboys could also claim, though they are still looking to become the third franchise to have multiple head coaches win multiple Super Bowls. Both the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers have done that.
The Steelers currently are tied with the New England Patriots for the most playoff victories in NFL history, and all of them are attributable to these three men. Noll posted a 16-8 record in the postseason, making the playoffs 12 times in his 23 years as head coach. Cowher went 12-9, making the playoffs in 15 of 19 seasons.
Tomlin is still writing his legacy, but is currently 8-7 in 15 playoff games, having gone to the playoffs in eight of his 12 seasons in Pittsburgh, which did not include the 2018 season by the slimmest of margins, finishing a half-game behind the Baltimore Ravens for the division title.
Tomlin has gone 3-5 in the postseason over the course of the past eight years, a run that includes three seasons of no playoffs. He has won multiple playoff games in three of his 12 seasons, most recently in 2016 when the Steelers advanced to the AFC Championship game.
After a dozen years in Pittsburgh, Tomlin’s tenure is being questioned. So was Cowher’s toward the end of his first decade in the city after missing the postseason in three straight years, but patience would eventually pay off five years on in the former of a Super Bowl XL victory, the organization’s first Lombardi in 26 years.