George Perles, a coach who spent a decade with the Steelers and was one of the architects of the Steel Curtain defense, has died at the age of 85.
Perles was hired by Chuck Noll as the Steelers’ defensive line coach in 1972, and that season the Steelers made the playoffs for the first time in 25 years and ranked second in the NFL in points allowed.
For the following decade, the “Steel Curtain” defense became one of the best in NFL history, with Perles coaching the defensive line through 1977 and then being promoted to defensive coordinator in 1978 and promoted again to assistant head coach in 1979. Perles won four Super Bowl rings as a Steelers assistant.
In 1982 Perles quit the Steelers to become head coach of the Philadelphia Stars of the upstart United States Football League. Perles spent a year helping to build the Stars’ roster, and they would go on to become the best team in the USFL, but Perles never coached a game for them: He quit the Stars to become the head coach at his alma mater, Michigan State, in 1983.
Michigan State was coming off a 2-9 season when Perles arrived, but he quickly improved the team and built a program that won the Rose Bowl after the 1987 season, finishing as the No. 8 team in the country.
Perles’s last season as a coach was in 1994. He would later spend 12 years on Michigan State’s Board of Trustees.