I am saying this because the media coverage of the Steelers dynasty was and remains far more slanted toward the coaching of talent as opposed to the identification and the acquisition of that talent. Why? Well because oftentimes when a draft pick fails, the scouting mechanism that evaluated that athlete may be held more responsible than inferior or flawed coaching methods. See, it doesn’t matter how gifted the architect regarding the translation and recording of a plan.
The visionary has to see the entire picture. Art Rooney and Dan Rooney knew and saw something about Chuck Noll that they believed and trusted in. They also knew and saw something in their new talent evaluator Bill Nunn Jr. that they believed in as well. The Rooney family were fully aware of the fact that unless they got the horses, the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise would remain in big trouble. Why? Well because there was a serious marketing strategy being developed by the NFL in an effort to replace baseball as “America’s” game and that strategy surely did not include and did not bode well for “bottom feeders.”
Someone with deep pockets and an even deeper ego could have been poised to snatch the Steelers franchise and relocate it to parts unknown. However, this of course is not a fact but nonetheless is viable; could that have been a distinct possibility? Remember, the Rams and the Raiders relocated on more occasions than a Section 8 voucher recipient, followed by the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Colts. Wait a minute hit rewind for a second.
According to http://www.profootballhof.com; “in August of 1959, at the call of Dallas businessman Lamar Hunt, a new professional football league to be called the American Football League was organized to begin play in 1960. Charter memberships were issued to Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and New York. Buffalo and Boston were admitted later that year. Early in 1960, Minneapolis defected to the National Football League and Oakland was picked as a replacement city. This was not just a new league, these teams were located in major U.S. markets and their style of play was considerably more offensive minded then the NFL three yards and a cloud of dust, throw the ball mostly on third and long mentality. By the time that the scouting tenure of Bill Nunn Jr. began with the Steelers in 1967 the team was not only in dire straits, the NFL was facing a serious competitive challenge from the left.
The “junior league” seemed to fit perfectly into a developing Madison Avenue television marketing strategy that was attracting eager advertisers to a brand new sports demographic.
No franchise at the point at which the Steelers began reinventing their football club in 1969 was safe because the ownership of NFL teams was beginning to change as well; from local and regional fan bases to national followings because of slick public relations and marketing strategies that were being developed and implemented representing a much larger coverage footprint for individual teams. The Pittsburgh Steelers retained and Chuck Noll and endorsed the expertise of Bill Nunn Jr. because the Steelers tradition of incompetence was indirectly threatening the “big money” possibilities of the NFL and represented a “fish out of water” at least as far as “selling” the entire league was concerned.
Sometimes in the midst of all of the nightmares you might have one good dream. Was Bill Nunn Jr. one of the primary subjects in one of the few good dreams that Dan Rooney might have had when the Steelers were mired in the “quicksand” of losing? However, don’t be naïve when it comes to the contributions of all of the individuals named above. If there is a so-called trinity that exists in professional football then Dan Rooney, Chuck Noll and Bill Nunn Jr. have to make up that entity because there was never before and there will never exist a “synergy” such as theirs in the world of sports.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741.)