Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ralph Berlin July 22, 1935 - Aug. 2, 2016 Former Trainer for Steelers, Known as the Plumber

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ralph Berlin July 22, 1935 - Aug. 2, 2016 Former Trainer for Steelers, Known as the Plumber

Article excerpt

Ralph Berlin was known as The Plumber when he worked as a trainer for the Steelers through the glory days of the 1970s and into the next two decades. But he really didn't know anything about pipes or repairing drains.

However, he was very good about making sure there weren't any leaks.

If someone in the media asked Mr. Berlin what was going on within the team, "He would answer, 'Gee, I'd love to help you, I'm the plumber. I just tape ankles and that,'" said former Steelers scouting director Art Rooney Jr., the person initially responsible for Mr. Berlin spending 24 years with the franchise.

"If someone said, look Ralph, you have to do this, he'd say, 'I'm just a plumber,'" said team chairman Dan Rooney, who hired Mr. Berlin in 1968. "And he made it stick."

Mr. Berlin, who spent 23 seasons working with Chuck Noll and became a close confidant of team founder Art Rooney Sr. and sons Dan and Art Jr., died Tuesday. He was 81.

Coach Mike Tomlin began his post-practice news conference on Wednesday with a respectful salute to the man who was beloved by everybody in the organization.

"He was a terrific person, he really was liked behind the scenes," Dan Rooney said. "He did the job. He liked everybody and made everybody feel a part of the organization. He liked everybody to laugh. He did a lot for us."

Even after he retired in 1992, Mr. Berlin remained active with the team. He would accompany the team each year to the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, including the most recent one in February, and would help current trainer John Norwig with preseason physicals.

General Manager Kevin Colbert was not a part of the Steelers teams when Mr. Berlin was active, but he took a training class from him at Robert Morris University.

"Special, special guy," Mr. Colbert said.

Mr. Berlin came to the Steelers in 1968, a year before Noll was hired, and he watched up close as the team was transformed into four-time Super Bowl champions in the 1970s. He had served with the U.S. Marine Corps and worked as a trainer at the University of Kentucky, where he happened to meet Art Rooney Jr., Dan's brother and son of the franchise founder. …

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