Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Steelers great Tunch Ilkin announces retirement from broadcasting, relies on God to beat ALS

Tunch Ilkin, who has spent 37 years between his time as an NFL player and color analyst for the NFL, announced his retirement from broadcasting last week, in order to focus on his battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

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The Pittsburgh Steelers announced Ilkin’s retirement through a Twitter post. Prior to his retirement, he worked for 23 years with the Pittsburg Steelers Radio Network.

Before entering the world of broadcasting, Ilkin spent 13 years as an offensive lineman for the Steelers. His career lasted from 1980-1992 with the Steelers and he played one game for the Green Bay Packers in 1993. He participated in two Pro Bowls in his career, in 1988 and 1989.

Now, Ilkin is facing an entirely different battle with ALS. Ilkin fist announced his diagnosis in October 2020. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, ALS is a disease that attacks the body’s ability to control voluntary movements, worsening to the point of fatality.

However, Ilkin was quick to note that he would dedicate himself to fighting the disease.

“I want to fight this thing with the help of God,” he said when announcing the diagnosis. “I’m not going to lie down and take this lightly.”

While many people in Ilkin’s situation might be tempted to give up, he instead continues try to live a normal life. He continues to exercise with foot drills, as well as an underwater treadmill, according to the Steelers’ website. Ilkin also keeps himself busy with a weekly prayer walk he does with other men in the Pittsburgh area. Ilkin told CBS that he’s grateful for the group’s prayers and support.

“I feel their prayers and they pray deeply for my healing, so I’m blessed by it,” Ilkin said.

Ilkin has made a strong impact on the other men in the group as well.

“He’s just an incredible person who, he does really care about everybody,” Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert told CBS. “It doesn’t matter who you are, what you are, what you do.”

While Ilkin is a strong man of faith now, that wasn’t always the case. He grew up in a Muslim home, and as an adult he began to walk away from religion. Once he joined the Steelers, Ilkin met John Kolb, another offensive lineman on the team who was a strong Christian. Through the relationship with Kolb, Ilkin decided to become a Christian and place his trust in God.

Since then, Ilkin has been able to mold his faith into something he can live out on a daily basis. For those who interact with him, it’s clear that his walk with Christ is genuine.

“Watching Tunch live out his Christian faith in front of Steelers Nation has been inspiring to say the least,” Steelers team chaplain Kent Chevalier told Sports Spectrum. “It’s been a privilege to learn the importance of faith, family and football, in that order.”

Chevalier was also quick to acknowledge the appreciation the organization has for Ilkin and his love for others.

“Everyone at the Steelers loves Tunch,” Chevalier said. “He radiates the hope of Jesus to each person he meets.”

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