Former Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive lineman and longtime broadcast parter on Steelers’ Radio, Tunch Ilkin, died Saturday at 63 years old.
Ilkin, who previously stepped away from the broadcast booth in June to focus on treatment to battle ALS, was in the hospital in late August battling pneumonia.
Ilkin was diagnosed with ALS, commonly called Lou Gehrig’s disease, in October 2020. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease which attacks motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, resulting in the wasting away of muscle and loss of movement.
A two-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle with the Steelers who played 14 seasons in the NFL, Ilkin went on to spend the last 23 years behind the microphone in the radio booth with Bill Hillgrove and his best friend, Craig Wolfley. Ilkin announced his retirement from the Steelers’ radio broadcast in June in order to allow him to focus on battling the disease through chiropractic visits and underwater treadmill treatments.
“I just had fun,” Ilkin said in June following the announcement of his retirement. “I had fun, I worked with two legends – Bill Hillgrove and Myron Cope – and I had fun with those guys. And when the Steelers open the regular season (against Buffalo), you can bet I’ll be watching the game.”
Ilkin’s death comes just eight days before the Steelers kick off the 2021 season against the Bills in Buffalo.
In July, the Steelers announced Ilkin would be part of the franchise’s Ring of Honor Class of 2021. Ilkin was the longest-tenured member of the Steelers’ organization, having spent 36 seasons in the black and gold as a player (13 years) and color commentator on the Steelers’ radio broadcast team (23 years). Ilkin was named to the Pro Bowl in 1988 and 1989 as a member of the Steelers, and later was named to the Steelers’ All-Time Team. After 14 years on the playing field, Ilkin moved to the radio booth in 1998, where he has spent the last 23 years calling over 480 games, including three Super Bowls.