Bill Nunn Jr., one of the main architects of the Steelers’ dynasty during the 1970s, has been named as a contributor finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2021 induction class. Nunn, a valued member of the Steelers’ scouting department for nearly a half-century (he was known as the Steelers’ “super” scout during his time with the team), played a hand in each of Pittsburgh’s six Super Bowl victories during his time with the organization.
Before becoming the Steelers’ assistant personnel director in 1970, Nunn, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 89, worked for the Pittsburgh Courier as a sports writer, sports editor and finally as the paper’s managing editor by the mid-1960s. Working for one of the most influential black publications in the nation, Nunn developed a deep knowledge of football programs at historically black colleges and universities.
Nunn, who annually released a “Black College All-America” team, was hired by the Steelers on a part-time basis in 1967. That position became full-time when Chuck Noll was hired as the team’s head coach in 1969.
“I didn’t want to hire him because I didn’t want the Chief telling me what to do,” Art Rooney Jr., who at that time was leading the team’s personnel department, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette back in 2014. “I wanted to be the boss. But the Chief insisted that I hire him. So I brought him in to talk to him, and we hit it off right away after about only 10 minutes.
“We started talking about what the Steelers were doing wrong, and we agreed on almost everything. He was a terrific guy to work with. We got along terrific. I kept telling Dan after the first year that this guy is special and that we had to hire him full time.”
With Nunn’s influence, the Steelers drafted “Mean” Joe Greene out of North Texas in 1969. That same year, they drafted defensive lineman L.C. Greenwood out of Ark-Pine Bluff. In 1970, Pittsburgh drafted receiver Ron Shanklin out of North Texas and cornerback Mel Blount out of Southern. In 1971, the Steelers drafted receiver Frank Lewis out of Grambling State, defensive lineman Dwight White from Texas A&M-Commerce, and fellow defensive lineman Ernie Holmes from Texas Southern. In 1974, the Steelers drafted receiver John Stallworth from Alabama A&M. The team’s best rookie free agent that season was safety Donnie Shell out of South Carolina State.
Many of the players Nunn helped bring to Pittsburgh helped the Steelers win four Super Bowls in a six-year span from 1974-79. Several of those players (that includes Greene, Blount, Stallworth and Shell) are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Greene, Stallworth, Shell and Greenwood were inducted in the Steelers’ inaugural Hall of Honor Class in 2017. Nunn joined them in the team’s Hall of Honor in 2018.
Nunn, who served as a semi-retired scout on the Steelers from 1987-2014, is one of the few members of the organization with six Super Bowl rings.
“You cannot write the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers without Bill Nunn,” Blount said of Nunn. “When you look at the Steelers of the 1970s, none of that would have happened without Bill Nunn.”