Steelers legend Ilkin passes away
Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle and long-time team broadcaster Tunch Ilkin passed away on Saturday at the age of 63. Ilkin announced last October that he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
“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 team statement. “His passion for the game of football was evident in his everyday 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 13 seasons in Pittsburgh from 1980 to 1992 before retiring as a Green Bay Packer, playing his final season in 1993. He was drafted by the Steelers in the sixth round of the NFL Draft with the 165th overall selection. He became a color analyst for the team once he retired from playing. He also went on to host a morning radio show called The Locker Room with Tunch and Wolf on WBGG. After 2006, the show was broadcast locally on 970 ESPN in Pittsburgh, and nationally on Steelers Nation Radio (SNR).
“After his playing career, Tunch continued to make an impact in our community in so many ways,” Rooney’s statement continued. “His efforts and dedication to the Light of Life was unparalleled, and his desire to always help others made everyone appreciate him.”
Ilkin was born in Istanbul, Turkey, but moved to the United States with his parents when he was just two years old. He became the first ever NFL player born in Turkey when he made his debut for the Steelers in 1980.
“Today we lost an incredible man with the passing of Tunch Ilkin,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin tweeted. “Tunch was special, someone who impacted everyone he came in contact with, myself included. He loved his family, lived his faith, and serving others was his passion. My prayers go out to his family.”
He announced in June that he was retiring from broadcasting after 23 years to focus on his ALS treatment.
“I have had 37 years in the NFL, with 14 as a player and the last 23 in broadcasting as the color analyst on the Pittsburgh Steelers Football Network, and I’ve decided to retire,” Ilkin had said earlier in the year. “I want to spend this time focusing on my treatment and fighting this disease.”
Ilkin was heavily involved in charitable work and was a devout Christian who’d served as a pastor in a non-denominational church since 2005.
The Steelers will kick off their 2021 NFL campaign on Sunday afternoon against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. Pittsburgh have not announced whether they will be paying tribute to Ilkin yet, but they may choose to wait until their first home game of the season on September 19th when they host the Las Vegas Raiders in week two.