Steelers Nation ‘Heartbroken’ by the Death of Tunch Ilkin

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On Saturday morning former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle and radio analyst Tunch Ilkin died at the age of 63 after a battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). According to Tom Reed of DKPittsburgh Sports, Ilkin had been hospitalized on Aug. 24 with pneumonia, which is a leading cause of death in those afflicted with ALS.

In the wake of the news, Steelers president Art Rooney II issued a statement that reflected the feelings of former teammates, current players, fans and media alike, all of whom were touched by Ilkin and his work.

“We are heartbroken by the passing of Tunch Ilkin,” began Rooney, who went on to highlight Ilkin’s passion for the game of football and his impact on the organization as a player. Yet he arguably made an even greater contribution to the Steelers and the Pittsburgh community after his playing days ended and he joined the Steelers radio team, where his voice reached millions of listeners.


Bill Hillgrove Remembers Ilkin as ‘an Overachiever as a Human Being’

“His desire to always help others made everyone appreciate him,” added Rooney in his statement, a sentiment echoed by Steelers play-by-play announcer Bill Hillgrove, who was Ilkin’s partner in the team’s radio booth for more than two decades.

He was “an overachiever as a human being. He reached out to people. He was fair. He was friendly. He cared about others,” Hillgrove told KDKA-TV on Saturday, adding that “it was two decades of pure joy being around the man.”

Another colleague in media, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, added further context by writing, “… Tunch was the epitome of a Great Human. You will not find a person who has a negative thing to say about him and that says all you need to know….”

Another longtime veteran of Pittsburgh sports media, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, expressed similar feelings.

Mike Tomlin: Tunch Ilkin ‘Impacted Everyone he Came in Contact With’

Countless NFL players and coaches weighed in about Ilkin too, beginning with Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who called Ilkin an “incredible man” and “someone who impacted everyone he came in contact with, myself included….”

Not surprisingly, Ilkin was especially well-regarded by the offensive and defensive linemen he encountered and mentored, many of whom shared their thoughts on social media on Saturday, including Steelers guard/center B.J. Finney …

… as well as former Steelers defensive lineman Chris Hoke:

Finally, it seems apropos to close with this, from Teresa Varley, who writes for Steelers.com and has long served as the assistant editor of Steelers Digest.

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Ilkin was preceded in death by his first wife, Sharon, who died of breast cancer in 2012. He is survived by his second wife, Karen, as well as three children.

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