Roundtable: Chuck Noll at Celebrity Roast Part III

For final part of the roundtable with Pittsburgh Steelers' legends, enter Chuck Noll. Coach and players reflect on how free agency has changed the game of football.

Terry Bradshaw: So there you have it. Cut. Cut. It's the Emperor. Uh, oh. Cut it off right now. We were just starting to talk about you. (Hugs Chuck Noll). It's good to see you.

Chuck Noll: You too.

TB: There's the guy you ought to ask your questions to. And he'll tell you the truth too because he don't care anymore.

(Enter Randy Grossman and John Stallworth).

TB: So when you moving?

CN: Well, we're moving from Hilton Head to Florida. We're going to stay in Sewickley.

Reporter: Mel, do you have any football going on at your youth home?

Mel Blount: Well kids will be kids. It's not organized. It's kind of like how we grew up playing it. Throw the ball and run and tackle.

R: Do they ask you for advice?

MB: They don't even know I played the game. They don't remember me. These kids are a lot younger. Nah, I get out there with them sometimes. We might get Terry to come out there and show them how to throw the ball or something.

R: How many kids do you have out there?

MB: Fourteen. They're just kids. We do what we can to make it a good place for them.

R: How would you rate Bill Cowher's performance in the last few years?

(Group laughter)

TB: Who you talking to?

R: Anyone.

MB: We're not in the business of rating. I'm not anyway. I can't speak for anyone else.

R: Chuck, this year marks the 25th anniversary of your last Super Bowl, the end of the dynasty. Is time flying by too quickly?

CN: They do go by fast.

R: How often do you think back to it? And what are some of your impressions?

CN: Well it takes an occasion like this when you get together with the guys and the feelings start to well up again from all the time you spend working together. It's that type of thing. Other than that, I'm in my life's work.

R: And that is?

CN: Fundraising.

R: Chuck, when was the last time you entertained a thought of getting back in the coaching game?

CN: Uh, I don't think I ever did. These guys took everything out of me.

R: When's the last time a team called you?

CN: Uh, a long time. Nobody's interested in old men. You know that.

R: Chuck, as kids growing up we listened to your comments and the philosophy was outstanding. Where did it come from? What was the base of all that?

CN: Well, I grew up in a situation where that was taught to me. I'm talking about my high-school football, then college football, then the time I spent with Paul Brown and the Browns. All that stuff kind of went through and this is what I learned. I tried to pass it on. What do they do? They sell what?

Randy Grossman: Whatever they'll buy.

TB: None of his players are coaching, are they? Are they?

CN: We have a few.

TB: I know Banaszak did.

RG: Mike Kruczek.

TB: Joe did.

MB: Tony was here for awhile, wasn't he?

CN: Tony Dungy.

RG: The legacy.

TB: I'm sorry.

CN: The good ones went into coaching.

R: What was the key to coaching? Was it keeping them grounded? Pumping them up? Was there one key?

CN: Yeah. There's one very important key -- getting good people. We were fortunate to do that, not only good football players but good people. Guys who wanted to succeed and were willing to pay the price to succeed because it's not an easy thing. You take the easy road and goodbye.

R: If you had to, could you name a particular play or game that was the key to the dynasty? A lot of people look at the Immaculate Reception.

CN: Well, that was a big part of it. There's no question. But there is so much to it. You can't just say one play would do it. It's like life. It's not just one day that's going to do it. It's how you live the whole thing. It takes a lot of work. These guys at practice worked really hard. That helped them succeed on the day of the game.

R: The ‘79 team was the last champion to have all homegrown talent. We'll probably never see that again. Would that be a point of great pride for you?

CN: Well the circumstances have changed. With the union coming in and free agency, the rules are different now than they were then. We were fortunate to be able to keep these guys together and that makes for success. You know, you're in there for one or two years, or I guess the maximum is four, then they go someplace else. I don't think it helps the game, personally. I think when you can stay together and work together and get to know one another -- because it takes time to be able to do that.

TB: I couldn't imagine losing John Stallworth or Randy or Coach Noll. His contract expires and next thing you know he's being courted by all these other teams. People always equate happiness and everything and the thrill of this game with money, but honestly if I were playing today and I thought my contract was going to disrupt the team, I know that it wouldn't be that big an issue again. We didn't have that -- Mel's gone again. Mel's the only one that sued this team. I bring that up as often as I can. It makes him uncomfortable. But I can't imagine going into work this year and knowing that I've got five guys -- Franco, Webby, Joe Greene -- their contracts are up. There'd be no way Pittsburgh could sign all these players. We'd lose three players for sure, maybe all five. Then you'd start over and rebuild through the draft and then you'd lose them again. I don't see why people even want to coach, knowing you have those kinds of restrictions sitting out there.

CN: You'd have to care less as a player? You'd have to withhold some love, wouldn't you?

TB: That's what people say. People ask, 'Are the players as good today? Are they as dedicated today?' I can't answer that. I don't know. I can't imagine going out and playing in a game like football and not being totally dedicated and committed to doing your very best and not thinking, 'Well, I'm going to take a year off because I've got a contract coming up.' Or in some cases a guy has three bad years, his contract's up and all of the sudden he has a great year. I can't imagine ever being in that situation.

R: Are there any players today that play the game like you guys did?

TB: I don't know. It's hard to keep them together. John's down there in Alabama. You'all got television down there where you are?

John Stallworth: We used to.

RG: It's real easy to beat up on the players now, talking about how much money they're making and how much they're looking forward to their next contract, but I think, just as it's always been, the majority of the players are playing because they love playing football. If the salaries were half of what they are, they would still be playing. And if it was a quarter of what they're getting now, they'd still play because the alternatives aren't viable. I mean, teaching is great. Being a police officer is great. Stocking shelves is great, an honorable job. But I mean, this is a gift we've been given for a very short amount of time. It's the exception. It just happens to be the economics of the game that players take advantage of, as we all do in our lines of work. But you've got to love this to get beat up. I mean, money's great but like Chuck said, you pay a significant price. Camp is not fun. Practice is not a whole lot of fun. But, you enjoy it and you're young and you're dumb and you do it. I mean, you get to be a kid for a long time.

TB: How many people come up to you and ask you to look at all the money and if you wished you could be playing? And your answer is going to be, 'What do you want: The money or the rings?' Those rings stay with you forever. It's always, ‘you'd rather win.' Because you always hear Chuck's words: ‘We've got to get into our life's chosen work eventually and those championships help you get through life.'

CN: You know, you want to have fun, and there's no fun losing. Fun comes in winning and you have to have good people who are dedicated and want to pay the price. And then it's fun.

R: But free agents can go to where the other good players are, they can win and have fun. But don't they miss out on the camaraderie that you guys had?

JS: You don't know that though. A lot of these guys have never experienced that. They have played under rules they are playing under now. They've never been with a team on which guys have stayed together for 10, 11 years. They don't know. Their means of comparison is what happened three, four years ago, not 20 years ago. So we can tell them what we had, but they never experienced that.

RG: Last time they experienced that was in high school. They didn't even experience it in college because they're coming out early. I mean, the last time they hung out with their buddies, someone they spent a lot of time with, for a long time, was high school. It's different.

R: But even if they do win, they lack that camaraderie. There has to be some kind of emptiness. Wouldn't you think? I mean, you guys all worked together, and the camaraderie and love you shared and you can come back like this.

TB: Yeah, you couldn't do that. I don't know where Deion Sanders would be today. If they had four gatherings of alumni, which one would he go to? I mean, we've got one. We're the same bunch. This is the same bunch till we just start dying off. It's the same group. There's a lot to be said for that. A lot to be said for it.

CN: You know --

R: Terry, when you were in therapy -- sorry, I didn't get a chance to ask you this before -- about the clinical depression, was it ever brought up to that that was a spiritual situation?

TB: Yes, it was and it wasn't. The spiritual issue was ruled out by the second doctor.

R: Do you think it is? Or is it a physical thing?

TB: Yeah, it's a disease. I didn't have any control over it. Why? Are you trying to say God zapped me?

R: No, not at all. That would be the last thing I would think.

TB: No, because that was an issue that I brought up. The first visit was to my preacher. He said this was not a spiritual issue. The second, the psychologist, confirmed what the preacher said. He sent me to the psychiatrist and it was never brought up again.

R: What about the sports fans in Pittsburgh? Did they contribute?

TB: (Laughs) Nah, you could probably say yes but a disease is a disease. A mental illness is a mental illness. Now, it can be triggered by stress and trauma, and if you play a bad game out there on the football field, then you've got to face him (Noll), which is not bad, not bad.

CN: Blame it all on Turkey Jones.

TB: (Laughs). There you go. But, yeah, it definitely triggers it. Flying on planes triggered it.

R: Terry, you missed out on functions with these guys. Do you regret that?

TB: The way I look at it, I'm here now. I'm coming back in June for a golf deal and it's all good. I've never been one, never, ever, when I retired from the NFL, I never looked back. I never said 'Woe is me.' I've never been one to ever in my life look back. Oh, sure you look back and say 'I would've done this or that differently.' Certainly. But I don't question it. It happened. It's over. It's done. And you take today and you move forward. I don't know what I missed and I missed it, so I'm here today and I'll be back in June.

R: What's in June?

TB: Golf tournament.

R: Mike Ditka's?

TB: No. Mike Ditka's? The Lavitra?

(Group laugh)

Part I  - Part II

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