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Dungy: “There’s no way” Steelers win Super Bowls in ’70s without Bill Nunn

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Most football fans hadn’t heard of long-time Steelers scout Bill Nunn before he passed away this week at 89 after suffering a stroke.  Every football fan — and every fan of the Steelers of the 1970s — should know who he is and what he did for one of the greatest teams in league history.

A pioneer in the scouting of players from African-American colleges, thanks to his time compiling the Black College All-American team, Nunn helped the Steelers discover players like Mel Blount, John Stallworth, L.C. Greenwood, Donnie Shell and Ernie Holmes.

“There is no way the Steelers win those Super Bowls in the ’70s without him,” former Steelers player, former NFL assistant coach and head coach, and current analyst for NBC’s Football Night in America Tony Dungy told PFT via text message.  “He tutored me during my time on the staff as well.  I will miss him.”

Nunn lived a diverse, intriguing, and admirable life.  He played college basketball at West Virginia State, helped integrate the NBA after World War II, became a journalist with the Pittsburgh Courier, and used his study of African-American players at traditionally black colleges to help the Steelers get the right players in the right positions to create one of the greatest dynasties in the history of professional sports.

We extend our condolences to Bill Nunn’s family, colleagues, friends, and the Steelers organization.

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25 Responses to “Dungy: “There’s no way” Steelers win Super Bowls in ’70s without Bill Nunn”
  1. raidermark says: May 8, 2014 1:12 AM

    I believe coach Dungy. Great man. RIP

  2. thegreatgabbert says: May 8, 2014 1:13 AM

    Now that Billy has passed on, the Steelers will never win another Super Bowl. It’s a sobering thought if you’re a fan of the team.

  3. thegreatgabbert says: May 8, 2014 1:22 AM

    The Steeler family grieves for their long time faithful companion and scout. All of those years and Billy didn’t even became Tonto to a Rooney. He never got past Scout.

  4. ialwayswantedtobeabanker says: May 8, 2014 1:39 AM

    I couldn’t agree more with every point made in this article. So very much of the Steelers of the 70’s can be directly traced to the efforts of Bill Nunn — he was so far ahead of his time, not to mention really really good at what he professed to do: scout, evaluate and identify elite level talent in (then)traditionally unmined sources.

    In the years before Bill Nunn, the Steelers were dreadful — any history book will tell us that. But shortly after he arrived, they ascended into legend – and he was essential to the Black and Gold forging the tradition we all know today.

  5. chinahand11 says: May 8, 2014 1:55 AM

    RIP Bill Nunn. Those were some legendary Steelers you found, sir.

  6. bluepike says: May 8, 2014 6:16 AM

    And let’s not forget that their entire offensive line was on steroids. Just telling it like it is.

  7. nightofthehipple says: May 8, 2014 6:22 AM

    Thanks Bill for being a pioneer. You helped change football for the better. The work you did is just, well, groundbreaking and amazing!

  8. filthymcfunny1 says: May 8, 2014 6:43 AM

    The greatest dynasty in pro football !!!

  9. patriotinvasion says: May 8, 2014 7:13 AM

    Is “Bill Nunn” code name for steroids? Must be…kind of like Mary Jane.

  10. tribefever says: May 8, 2014 7:22 AM

    They also wouldn’t have won without using steroids.

  11. dryzzt23 says: May 8, 2014 7:34 AM

    RIP – The Stillers wouldn’t be the Stillers w/o Bill Nunn.

    It speaks volumes about the Steelers Art Rooney and Chuck Noll bringing in Nunn into the Steelers fold before it was “en vogue”.

  12. realitycheckbaby says: May 8, 2014 7:34 AM


  13. cguy7 says: May 8, 2014 7:46 AM

    R.I.P. Bill Nunn. Legend in the scouting community and an amazing story. The best hire the Rooney’s ever made. -Browns Fan

  14. realitycheckbaby says: May 8, 2014 7:59 AM

    But Dungy, you forgot to credit the roids.

  15. allidoiswin55 says: May 8, 2014 8:20 AM

    Nor without steroids which they took in abundance . They were still great defensively but let’s not forget they pushes the limits on the field and used substances off it to help! Best defense of all time…

  16. notthetroll says: May 8, 2014 8:27 AM

    Wow. not a fan of the Steelers so missed hearing about this guy. Sounds like a good story, and would like to hear more about his life. Hope he got his props while he was alive, I’m sure the Rooney family hooked him up.

  17. pittspuke7 says: May 8, 2014 8:39 AM

    Uh, they are known at the Pittsburgh Steroids to any knowledgable football fan for a reason. Unfortunately, they have had many players pass away at an early age because of the Steroids abuse. The Los Angeles Times reports.
    The former players have fallen to heart attacks, accidents, disease and suicide over the past six years. The Times said 16 of the 77 NFL players from the 1970s and 1980s who have died since 2000 were Steelers – more than one in five.

  18. mp4philly says: May 8, 2014 8:44 AM

    Fascinating life, great article. Rest in peace, sir.

  19. cfballfan1 says: May 8, 2014 8:50 AM

    Sounds like a life well – lived, and a great sports legacy. RIP Mr. Nunn.

  20. jonkoethe says: May 8, 2014 8:53 AM

    Those Steelers’ teams coulda lined up ten guys on each side and prob won 2-3 Super Bowls. Unbelievable concentration of talent.

  21. bohste says: May 8, 2014 8:53 AM

    As a Browns fan, I hate Bill Nunn! He should have worked for Cleveland. Seriously, his record speaks for itself. RIP

  22. jtbsteeler says: May 8, 2014 9:27 AM

    R.I.P. Mr. Nunn. Thank you for your service to the Steelers and their fans.

  23. sallust99 says: May 8, 2014 10:55 AM

    Amazing how some cannot resist to bash the #blackandgold – even when a somber moment arrives. Shame on you.

    Mr. Nunn was fantastic. And Mr. Dungy is correct, without him, there are no 70s Steelers – but that can also be said with regard to others in that group, i.e., the players, Coach Noll, Dan Rooney, Art Rooney, and I am sure some others.

    I highly recommend the book – “Their Life’s Work” – very informative about that decade in the City of Champions and the men who built them.

  24. melikefootball says: May 8, 2014 11:58 AM

    May you R.I.P Mr Nunn, Being a long time Steeler fan I never thought I would ever see the Steelers win a Championship. Being at Super Bowl 9 was my best sports experience ever and then to see them win three more back in the day, WOW. All of Pittsburgh thinks highly of this man and he deserves ever last ounze of the praise.

  25. Deb says: May 8, 2014 6:26 PM

    Great piece of football history–changed the way scouting was done in the NFL. Thanks for giving this pioneer his due.

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