Prayers, Outpouring of Support for Steelers’ Tunch Ilkin


Otto Greule Jr./Allsport Tunch Ilkin of the Pittsburgh Steelers during a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in 1990.

On Thursday former Pittsburgh Steelers lineman and longtime Steelers broadcaster Tunch Ilkin announced he’s been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. In the wake of this awful news, there’s been an outpouring of prayers and support from the Steelers family and media community.

Here’s a sampling of the messages that have been sent since he went public with his diagnosis.

Chris Adamski, Steelers reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, said that Ilkin is “one of the nicest, kindest souls” he has ever met and encouraged people to pray for him.

Teresa Varley of echoed those thoughts, saying that Tunch is “an incredible human being. All we can do right now to help him is pray, so please take a minute and do that.”

Likewise, KDKA-TV Sports Director Bob Pompeani, encourages everyone to pray for Ilkin.

For his part, Gerry Dulac, who covers the Steelers for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, put out a hopeful message, advising us that “Tunch is the most mentally strong and spiritually empowered person I know. If anyone is capable of dealing with this insidious disease it is Tunch.”

Finally, Steelers right tackle Zach Banner—who plays the same position that Tunch Ilkin once manned—said he’s heartbroken about the news.

Colin Dunlap, host of the 93.7 The Fan morning show in Pittsburgh, reminds Steelers fans that Ilkin’s voice is “part of the soundtrack to [their] fandom.”

Thinking along those lines, one Steelers fan wrote that Ilkin “may be one of the kindest, gentle, humble men I have never personally met. And yet, I feel like I know him.”

Tunch Ilkin’s Career as a Steelers Player, Broadcaster

Ilkin played 12 seasons for the Steelers (1980-1992). During that time he started 143 of 176 games and was selected to the Pro Bowl twice.

He was drafted by the Steelers in the sixth round of the 1980 NFL Draft out of Indiana State.

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 booth with Bill Hillgrove, with former Steelers lineman and longtime friend Craig Wolfley also an integral part of the radio broadcasts.

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

About ALS

According to the Mayo Clinic, ALS is a progressive nervous system disease that affects control of the muscles needed to move, eat, speak and breathe. There is no cure, and on average, death occurs within three to five years of the onset of symptoms, though some people live more than 10 years.

Ilkin, a devout Christian, went public with his diagnosis in a video posted to the Twitter account of The Bible Chapel, a non-denominational church.

If you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to read the column Paul Zeise wrote today about Ilkin, which appeared in the Post-Gazette.

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