Steelers scout Bill Nunn passes away at age 89

Bill Nunn, a key scout for the Steelers as they constructed their four Super Bowl-winning teams of the 1970s, passed away on Tuesday at age 89 after a recent stroke, the club said.

The former managing editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, Nunn is renowned for his work finding and recommending pro football talent at historically African-American colleges. Nunn, who oversaw the Courier‘s Black College All-American Team, parlayed his knowledge into a part-time scouting role with the Steelers, then became a full-time staffer, working 46 years with the team.

At the time of his passing, Nunn was a senior assistant in player personnel with the Steelers.

“We have lost a great friend and a great person who did so much for the Steelers organization with the passing of Bill Nunn,” Steelers chairman Dan Rooney said in a statement on the club’s website. “Bill was a special person who did everything in his career, from playing sports to being an excellent journalist all of which led to his outstanding career in scouting for the Steelers.

“Bill had extraordinary instinct in identifying talent throughout his career, including the legendary 1974 NFL Draft for us. He put us ahead of so many other teams in the NFL by leading the efforts of drafting African-American football players at traditional black colleges. Very few people had a bigger impact in the history of our franchise, and his positive attitude and contributions will truly be missed.”

As a Steelers evaluator, Nunn is widely credited for his work scouting Alabama A&M wide receiver John Stallworth. According to the club’s website, Nunn put Stallworth through a private workout after the prospect had run poorly the previous day. Nunn also procured film on Stallworth, who was one of four future Hall of Famers drafted by Pittsburgh in 1974.

“Someone said Bill Nunn got a film of John, and we were supposed to send it to the other teams, but it got lost, or it kind of got delayed going to the other places,” former Steelers running backs coach Dick Hoak recalled in a feature recently published on

One of the charter members of the Black College Football Hall of Fame, Nunn is survived by his wife and two children.

[Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers.]

17 responses to “Steelers scout Bill Nunn passes away at age 89

  1. Good article!

    And AGREED — very very VERY few people are aware of what a KEY role Nunn played in the dominant Steelers teams of the 70’s — a decade when there were some really big boys on the block (Oakland, Miami, Minnesota and Dallas).

    Nunn deserves major respect and a boatload of gratitude and appreciation.

  2. Not just Stallworth. Greene, Greenwood, Blount, Shell, and a host of other Steelers stars and key contributors from the 70s came from traditionally black colleges in the Deep South. Nunn was way ahead of his time.

  3. Bill pretty much died with his boots on because it is said he had the stroke in a draft meeting in a room named for him!

    A nonprofit we work with honored Bill a few years ago and he said his secret sauce was “the feet.” A prospect slow or uncoordinated in foot work just could not get where he needed to go in time enough for the NFL.

    Back before draftnicks Bill used his position at the nationally important Pittsburgh Courier to scout college players for his own Black Schools All-American Teams.

    He chided the hometown Steelers for missing the boat and finally they listened. Along with the Cowboys the Steelers were the first to mine the small Black schools.

    An additional bit of history: Bill played high school basketball and JC hoops with Chuck Cooper who at Duquesne University became the first Black player ever drafted by an NBA team….the Boston Celtics.

  4. A sad day for Steelers football.
    Bill Nunn was finding gifted black athletes even before the 1974 draft. Wide receivers Ron Shanklin and Frank Lewis come to mind.

  5. Oh, hate to hear this news. What a wonderful asset to the Steelers organization. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and all those who had the opportunity to work with him.

    RIP, Bill.

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