Steelers Broadcaster, Former Player Announces He Has ALS

Pittsburgh Steelers helmet

Getty Images Pittsburgh Steelers helmet.

On Thursday former Pittsburgh Steelers lineman and longtime Steelers broadcaster Tunch Ilkin, 63, announced that he has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. ALS is a progressive nervous system disease that affects control of the muscles needed to move, speak and breathe. There is no cure.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common cause of death for victims of ALS is respiratory failure and, on average, death occurs within three to five years of the onset of symptoms, though some people live more than 10 years.

Ilkin made the announcement in a video posted to the Twitter account of The Bible Chapel, a non-denominational church with locations in the Pittsburgh area and also in Florida. He related the news as part of a 28-minute discussion with Bible Chapel senior pastor Ron Moore.

‘I Want to Fight This Thing’

After making the announcement, Ilkin went on to say, “I want to fight this thing …with the help of God…. I’m not going to lie down and take this lightly. I’m working out four days a week, I’m walking. And I’m jumping on my trampoline—my mini tramp—for a half hour every day.”

Ilkin says he was diagnosed at UPMC Presbyterian (Pittsburgh) and the diagnosis was confirmed at the Cleveland Clinic last week.

Asked by Moore how he is feeling, Ilkin said, “One of the things is that in the earning morning my arms are tired and my hands are tired but as the day goes on, I start getting more energetic. It is a challenge to me for the morning. It’s a challenge for me because I’m on medication and one of the medications makes me tired mid-morning, but after lunch I start picking up steam. There are times I get fatigued but there are times that I get energetic.”

During the video, Ilkin relates how a friend from church spoke to him after hearing the diagnosis and asked what he could do?

“Pray. I need prayer,” Ilkin said.

Tunch Ilkin’s Career as an NFL Player

Tunch Ilkin played 13 seasons for the Steelers (1980-1992) before spending his final NFL season with the Green Bay Packers in 1993. During his time in Pittsburgh he started 143 of 176 games and was selected to the Pro Bowl twice, in 1988 and 1989.

After his playing career came to an end Ilkin moved into broadcasting and became a part of the Steelers radio network team in 1998. Since Myron Cope retired in 2005, Ilkin has shared the booth with Bill Hillgrove, with former Steelers lineman and friend Craig Wolfley also a big part of the broadcasts.

He was drafted by the Steelers in the sixth round of the 1980 NFL Draft out of Indiana State, one round after Wolfley, who played at Syracuse.

Ilkin has been on the team’s radio broadcasts this season and there is no indication that will change for the forseeable future.

Ilkin’s wife Sharon passed away in 2012 at the age of 55 after a battle with breast cancer.

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