(Photo by Don Larson/Getty Images)
Tunch Ilkin, who was diagnosed with ALS last September, announced his retirement yesterday after 23 years as a color analyst on the Steelers Radio Network. Ilkin also spent 13 of his 14 NFL seasons as an offensive tackle for the Steelers (1980-92).
Ilkin was a big part of the Steelers organization and was loved by everybody, especially the offensive linemen, as Ilkin and his former teammate and radio partner Craig Wolfley, who was also an offensive lineman, loved to talk about line play.
Ilkin will surely be missed as a color analyst on the Steelers Radio Network, along with his radio show with Wolfley and his appearances on Steelers.com during training camp at Saint Vincent College. He was always a great voice to listen to and his passion for the game was impeccable. He came off as pure and natural.
My favorite Ilkin call was when Jerome Bettis fumbled the ball against the Colts in the 2005 Divisional Round game with 80 seconds left and the Steelers holding on to a 21-18 lead, Joey Porter and James Farrior combined to sack Peyton Manning to turn the ball over to the offense at the Indianapolis 2-yard line. It appeared that the Steelers had the game locked up, but then the Bettis fumble happened, and Ilkin's reaction was so authentic. At one point he yells, "Somebody's got to tackle him!"
Of course, this memory wouldn't be so fond if Ben Roethlisberger didn't make the shoestring tackle on Nick Harper and Mike Vanderjagt didn't shank a 46-yard field goal wide right that secured the win for the Steelers.
"So after Joey sacked Peyton Manning, and we got the ball at the 2-yard line, I said on the radio, 'Pack your bags, we're going to Denver (for the AFC Championship Game),'" Ilkin said yesterday about the call. "And then Jerome (Bettis) fumbled, and the Colts recovered and ran the ball out to near midfield, and so then I said, 'Call the travel agents and unpack those bags ...'"
You can watch Ilkin's full call of the play in the video below. The range of emotions is tremendous. It was pure passion. We'll certainly miss listening to Tunch call Steelers games. I'll never forget his call when Bettis fumbled in the 2005 Divisional Round game against the Colts though.