Tunch Ilkin, a two-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle and member of the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team, died on Saturday morning at the age of 63 following a battle with ALS, the Steelers announced. Ilkin, who served as a team broadcaster following his playing career, announced his retirement from the booth in June to focus on his ALS treatment. He was diagnosed in October 2020.
"We are heartbroken by the passing of Tunch Ilkin," Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a statement. "He was a man of faith who dedicated his entire life to being a devout Christian and family man. 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.
"After his playing career, Tunch continued to make an impact in our community in so many ways. His efforts and dedication to the Light of Life was unparalleled, and his desire to always help others made everyone appreciate him. He was loved by his family, teammates, and friends. We were fortunate to have Tunch as a player and broadcaster for so many years. Our condolences to his entire family during this difficult time."
In all, Ilkin spent nearly four decades working around pro football. He was drafted by the Steelers in the sixth round of the 1980 NFL Draft out of Indiana State and played 14 years in the league (13 with Pittsburgh). He then spent the past 23 years working as a Steelers radio analyst.
In July, Ilkin was named to the Steelers Hall of Honor and was set to be inducted in a ceremony in November.
"Today we lost a heck of a person but God gained an unbelievable angel," current Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward said of Ilkin in a post on social media. "Your love, faith, candor, and strength will be remembered forever. I'm lucky enough to have talked and got to know you. May you be at peace brother. RIP TUNCH."
Ilkin's death comes days before the Steelers are set to open up their 2021 regular season against the Buffalo Bills.