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Mike Tomlin says Bill Nunn was 'scientific' in terms of how he evaluated talent


(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)


Steelers "super scout" Bill Nunn was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with eight others posthumously, during a special ceremony by the Hall of Fame in April. However, as a member of the Class of 2021, there will be a video tribute for Nunn this Sunday in Canton, Ohio.


Mike Tomlin had a press conference for the Hall of Fame Game today, and he was asked about his relationship with Nunn.


"I am sure there are a lot more veteran guys, senior guys, that have a perspective as far as his impact," Tomlin said. "I often have good conversations with Art (Rooney II) regarding his impact and others, particularly during that era of the '70s. I just appreciated the mentorship I got from him, the wisdom I got from him. The time spent. All of us that had an opportunity to spend time with him really enjoyed it."


Before becoming a scout, Nunn was a sportswriter and editor for the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the largest Black newspapers in the United States, and he selected the Black College All-American Team every year since 1950. The Steelers were aware of Nunn's coverage of players who went to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and at the time, HBCU players were traditionally underrepresented in the league. The Steelers were known as perennial losers in the 1960s and were looking for a winning edge, so they asked Nunn to join the team's scouting department. Nunn accepted a part-time position with the Steelers in 1967 and two years later he was hired full-time when Chuck Noll became the team's head coach.


Nunn would travel all over the South every fall to compile information on players for his All-American team, along with that he built close relationships with coaches and athletic directors at HBCUs. The Steelers had a huge advantage over other teams by having Nunn.


Without Nunn, the Steelers don’t find diamonds in the rough like John Stallworth (Alabama A&M), Mel Blount (Southern), L.C. Greenwood (Arkansas-Pine Bluff), Ernie Holmes (Texas Southern), Dwight White (East Texas State) and Donnie Shell (South Carolina State), all of whom played at HBCUs. Stallworth, Blount and Shell are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Also without Nunn, the Steelers don't win four Super Bowls in six years in the 1970s. His fingerprints were all over the 1970s dynasty.


Nunn retired from his full-time scouting position in 1987 but he still helped the Steelers as a part-time scout up until his passing in 2014 at the age of 89. In total, Nunn played a role in all six of the Steelers' Super Bowl titles. Nunn is the first Black contributor to ever make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Tomlin says Nunn had a unique way of scouting, and that's what made him such a great talent evaluator.


"Me personally I loved how scientific he was in terms of the evaluation of talent, or pedigree, and the things he focused on in terms of the evaluation of athletes. Many of the things he taught me I use until this day and probably will continue to use and share with others. He was a legendary talent evaluator. His enshrinement is well deserved.


"He had certain things, 'isms' if you will. He didn't like tall offensive linemen because of bend, or potential lack there of. He always looked how guys had weight distributed on the bottom of their shoes. He wanted guys to have the instep part of their shoe to be more worn than the outer parts because that was a good power source for directional changing and things of that nature. Just a bunch of unique tidbits that I could go on forever. Just tools of the trade and really examples of his expertise in that area."



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