The Pittsburgh Steelers are heavily represented at this weekend’s two-day NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony. On Saturday, Troy Polamalu, Bill Cowher, and Donnie Shell will be enshrined, and then Sunday will feature Alan Faneca and a tribute to Bill Nunn.
When Nunn first began his time with the Steelers in 1970, the current players on the roster weren’t close to being born, and neither were many of the coaches. Over his 44 years with the franchise, Nunn revolutionized the game. His work scouting historically black colleges and universities directly led to the Steelers’ four Super Bowls in six seasons, and led the entire league to spend more time scouting players at those universities.
One of the most respected men in franchise history, Nunn stayed with the team in some role through 2014. Though most of his team proceeded current Steeler head coach Mike Tomlin and almost all of the current players, everyone with the team knows Nunn’s name and the impact he had on the franchise. Speaking with the media during Tuesday’s training camp work, Tomlin was asked about his limited time with Nunn.
“I just appreciate it. The mentorship that I got from him, the wisdom that I got from him, the time spent. All of us that had an opportunity to spend time with him really enjoyed it. Me personally, I love how scientific he was in terms of the evaluation of talent or pedigree and the things that he focused on in terms of the evaluation of athletes. Many of the things that he taught me, I use to this day, and probably will continue to use and share with others. He was a legendary talent evaluator and, his enshrinement is well-deserved,” Tomlin said.
Nunn brought over 10 Hall of Famers to the Pittsburgh Steelers as a scout, many from HBCUs. Among his most famous finds from HBCUs are John Stallworth, fellow 2021 enshrinee Donnie Shell, and Mel Blount, as well as near-Hall of Famer L.C. Greenwood. Nunn played a part in Joe Greene’s drafting by the Steelers, and an accomplished scout, he also helped find players like Jack Lambert, Lynn Swann, and Mike Webster.
Tomlin said Nunn accomplished more than so many front offices in their entirety because of his unique way of looking at the game, a way that has been passed down to people like Tomlin decades later to continue the Steelers’ level of success.
“He had certain things that, isms, if you will. He didn’t like tall offensive linemen, because of bend or potential lack thereof. He always looked at how guys had weight distributed on the bottom of their shoes, he wanted guys that have the inside, in-step part of their shoe to be more worn than the other parts, because that was a good power source for directional changing and things of that nature. Just a bunch of unique little tidbits that I could go on for forever. But just tools of the trade and really examples of his expertise in that area,” Tomlin said.