Steelers great Ilkin, 63, dies after fighting ALS

  • Previously covered the Kansas City Chiefs for the Kansas City Star and Oklahoma University for the Oklahoman.

PITTSBURGH — Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle and longtime broadcaster Tunch Ilkin died Saturday from ALS and pneumonia, the team announced. He was 63.

Ilkin was diagnosed with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease, in October 2020 and retired from Steelers broadcasting duties in June to focus on the disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

A two-time Pro Bowler, Ilkin was announced as part of a four-member 2021 class to be inducted in the Steelers Hall of Honor later this year.

“We are heartbroken by the passing of Tunch Ilkin. He was a man of faith who dedicated his entire life to being a devout Christian and family man,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a statement. “His passion for the game of football was evident in his every day life. As a player, he fought his way through tough times of being cut and injured, but continued to make an impact as a leader of our offensive line and made two Pro Bowls.”

Ilkin played for the Steelers from 1980-92 and later rejoined the team in the broadcast booth for 23 years as a color analyst.

A staple in Pittsburgh and the Steelers’ community, Ilkin, the first NFL player born in Turkey, was heavily involved in his church, The Bible Chapel , South Hills, and was a volunteer at the Light of Life Rescue Mission.

“After his playing career, Tunch continued to make an impact in our community in so many ways,” Rooney’s statement read. “His efforts and dedication to the Light of Life was unparalleled, and his desire to always help others made everyone appreciate him.”

Following Ilkin’s ALS diagnosis, the city of Pittsburgh recognized Dec. 21, 2020 as Tunch Ilkin Day.

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