Former Steelers DC Woody Widenhofer, who coached Steel Curtain defense, dies at 77

Jack Baer

Woody Widenhofer, whose extensive football coaching career included stints as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive coordinator and head coach at Missouri and Vanderbilt, has died, the team confirmed Monday. He was 77 years old.

After playing linebacker at Missouri in the 1960s, the Butler, Penn. native embarked on a coaching career that spanned five decades and often moved between the college and NFL level.

Widenhofer won four Super Bowls behind Steel Curtain defense

The most distinguished stretch of Widenhofer’s career came during his stint with the Steelers, starting as linebackers coach in 1973 and earning a promotion to defensive coordinator under Chuck Noll in 1979. While in Pittsburgh, Widenhofer was part of four Super Bowl champions and coached Hall of Famers Jack Lambert and Jack Ham for nearly their entire careers.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Woody Widenhofer,” Steelers owner Art Rooney said in a statement. “Woody played an important role coaching our famed Steel Curtain defense when he helped us win four Super Bowls in the 1970s.

“He coached some of the best linebackers in NFL history during his time in Pittsburgh and was later elevated to defensive coordinator, where he guided the defense in our Super Bowl XIV victory over the Los Angeles Rams.”

Hall of Famers Jack Ham (59) and Jack Lambert (58) played nearly their entire careers under Woody Widenhofer. (AP Photo)

Widenhofer left the Steelers in 1973 for a job as head coach of the ill-fated USFL’s Oklahoma Outlaws, then landed the head coaching position at his alma mater in Missouri. He lasted four seasons in Columbia, going 12-31-1.

Widenhofer later became head coach at Vanderbilt, but saw a similar level of success by going 15-40.

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