On Thursday former Pittsburgh Steelers player-turned-radio color analyst Tunch Ilkin announced his retirement from broadcasting via a statement published on Steelers.com. It was a move that was expected, but still hard to hear.
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Last October Ilkin revealed that he had been diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), which is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s a progressive nervous system disease that affects control of the muscles needed to move, eat, speak and breathe and has no cure.
After announcing his diagnosis, Ilkin said: “I want to fight this thing …with the help of God…. I’m not going to lie down and take this lightly.”
Tunch Ilkin’s Fight Against ALS Continues
Indeed nothing has changed on that front. In fact, that’s part of the reason he has decided to retire from broadcasting: to dedicate himself to his treatment regimen, which includes thrice-weekly visits to a chiropractor and running on an underwater treadmill at Adventures in Training with a Purpose, the training facility operated by former teammate Jon Kolb. (He recently reported a personal best of 2.4 miles on the treadmill, “where the water level sometimes reaches as high as his shoulders.”)
Each Wednesday, his routine also includes a morning walk through the streets of Mt. Washington, where he is joined by Kolb, Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert, longtime friend and former NFL defensive lineman Leo Wisniewski, and “guys from my Bible study group,” as Ilkin puts it.
“We walk for an hour every Wednesday, and then we go to the statues at Point of View Park [on Mt. Washington] and we pray,” Ilkin added.
His Steelers Career Spanned 12 Seasons
Tunch Ilkin came to Pittsburgh in the spring of 1980 after the Steelers made him a sixth-round pick out of Indiana State (No. 165 overall).
He went on to play for the team for 13 years (176 games), during which time he was named to the Pro Bowl twice (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 2005, Ilkin has shared the radio booth with Bill Hillgrove and fellow former Steelers lineman Craig Wolfley, who was selected one round earlier than Ilkin in the 1980 NFL Draft and played for the team through the 1989 season before finishing his career with the Minnesota Vikings.
Ilkin’s wife Sharon passed away in 2012 at the age of 55 after a battle with breast cancer.
The initial announcement of Ilkin’s diagnosis resulted in an outpouring of prayers and support from the Steelers’ family and media community.
One can expect similar missives in the wake of the latest news, with Mark Kaboly of The Athletic being one of the first to react to today’s development.
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