Former Steelers defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer dies at 77

  • Former Steelers defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer dies at 77

Former Steelers defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer dies at 77

Woody Widenhofer, a former Detroit Lions defensive coordinator who was on staff for the franchise's best regular season ever, died on Sunday. His other head coaching jobs were at Missouri and Vanderbilt.

But the homecoming story, which included the marketing campaign of hitching a ride on "Woody's Wagon", didn't have a happy ending. Widenhofer was 12-31-1 in four seasons at Missouri before announcing his resignation after the Tigers posted a 3-7-1 record in 1988.

It's been a tough past year for former Steelers assistant coaches and deaths.

Steelers president Art Rooney II issued a statement following the passing of Widenhofer, who spent almost 40 years in coaching that included 11 seasons on Pittsburgh's coaching staff.

Anchored by their "Steel Curtain" defense, the Steelers won four Super Bowl championships during Widenhofer's tenure as the linebackers coach (1973-78) and defensive coordinator (1979-83).

"A local native of Butler, Woody will be missed by those who knew him and played under him".

Widenhofer retired from coaching in 2007 after three years as the defensive coordinator at New Mexico State. With their younger defenders complementing the ability of Lambert, Ham, defensive linemen Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White, and defensive backs Mel Blount, Donnie Shell, Ron Johnson, J.T. Thomas, and Mike Wagner, Widenhofer's defense boasted the league's fifth-best scoring defense that season while helping the Steelers capture their second straight AFC crown. Bob Stull replaced Widenhofer as head coach of the Tigers for the 1989 season.

Widenhofer also spent six years as defensive coordinator of the Lions under Wayne Fontes and two years as a linebackers coach with the Browns under Bill Belichick. He held that position for two seasons before being promoted to head coach of the Commodores.

Woody Widenhofer compiled a 15-40 overall record and 4-36 mark in SEC play as the head coach Vanderbilt from 1997 until 2001.