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.
Very sad news. A great man and a great friend to many, Tunch Ilkin, has passed away. Thoughts and prayers are with the Ilkin family
— Alby Oxenreiter (@albyox) September 4, 2021
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.
May Tunch Ilkin Rest In Peace 💛 I didn’t know him personally, but he always had such a radiant smile when I’d pass him in the Steelers press box last season.
Sending thoughts and prayers to his family, and all of the lives he impacted. He was truly an incredibly special soul.
— Jenna Harner (@JennaHarner11) September 4, 2021
Sooo sad today 😔😔😔A wonderful, faithful man and a great friend Tunch Ilkin, has died. Condolences and prayers are with the Ilkin family. His faith was incredible.
— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) September 4, 2021
Tunch Ilkin made time for anybody. That included me on occasions I found myself helping on Steelers stories. He was a big man with a bigger heart, grateful and gracious and a giver. Very good player. Exceptional color analyst. Unforgettable Pittsburgher. Rest In Power, Tunch.
— Rob Rossi (@Real_RobRossi) September 4, 2021
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.
Today we lost an incredible man with the passing of Tunch Ilkin. Tunch was special, someone who impacted everyone he came in contact with, myself included. He loved his family, lived his faith, and serving others was his passion. My prayers go out to his family.
— Mike Tomlin (@CoachTomlin) September 4, 2021
I am heartbroken to hear the news about Tunch Illkin. He was an amazing person with a huge heart and will be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers are with his entire family and Steelers Nation. We lost an inspiration to all of us today 🙏🏿
📸: @TheAthletic pic.twitter.com/L4Xj2TVYuR
— Jerome Bettis (@JeromeBettis36) September 4, 2021
We lost a great one today but God received an Angel. Tunch Ilkin was a great friend and truly the most genuine guy I know. From random phone calls just to pray for my family and I, to poking fun at each other on the radio. You will be missed brother!! 🙏🏽🙌🏼🙌🏼 @steelers pic.twitter.com/6SiJAIoTDD
— Bruce Gradkowski (@bgradkowski5) September 4, 2021
My heart is heavy, I learned about the passing of Tunch Ilkin. A lot of people knew Tunch as a tremendous LT for the #Steelers or the Color Analyst for the team. I first learned about him thru his Tunch Punch Videos as a young lineman! Got to know him better over the years #RIH🙏🏾
— Max Starks IV (@maxstarks78) September 4, 2021
Tunch my guy R.I.P great man!!
— Mike Wallace (@Wallace17_daKid) September 4, 2021
Such a big loss… so many memories with Tunch. Praying for his family. pic.twitter.com/uovdVkSW8p
— Kelvin Beachum (@KelvinBeachumJr) September 4, 2021
We lost a Great one
Rest in Paradise my friend 🙏 pic.twitter.com/EvBJSUKfzl
— Brett Keisel (@bkeisel99) September 4, 2021
Rest in Power O.G. You will be missed. One of the greatest humans I know!! All love Tunch. Thank you for just being you. 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/AmLO6I49hf
— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) September 4, 2021
Thank you for taking a youngin like me under your wing and showing me how to do things the right way. It was an honor to share the booth with you and Bill for two games last year. You will be truly missed. Love you Bro pic.twitter.com/KWWQK53471
— Charlie Batch (@CharlieBatch16) September 4, 2021
What?! 😔🖤💛. A great man! Rest In Peace Tunch. Helped push the technique of lineman punching and using their hands. The Tunch Punch! https://t.co/j7plaP7ppQ
— Ramon Foster (@RamonFoster) September 4, 2021
I am terribly saddened by the news of Tunch Ilkin’s passing. He was a man I looked up to in so many ways. My love and condolences to the Ilkin family. Rest In peace in the presence of the prince of peace, Jesus Christ! Godspeed brother. #steelersbrother
— Chris Hoke (@hokiebro76) September 4, 2021
Tunch was a great man of faith but had a meek and gentle spirit. He had the unique ability to draw other people to him. I will miss our conversations but I know I will see him again. This is a great opportunity for us to celebrate his life. pic.twitter.com/aPnKScT0AZ
— Donnie Shell (@donnie_shell) September 4, 2021
A man of integrity, honor, and faith. You will be missed by many. Rest in paradise, Tunch.
— Ryan Switzer (@Switz) September 4, 2021