March 23, 2020 / 11:03 PM / in 16 days

Former Steelers DC Widenhofer dies at 77

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Robert “Woody” Widenhofer, a former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator and Vanderbilt and Missouri head coach, died Sunday. He was 77.

Widenhofer, who was living in Colorado Springs, Colo., was in the hospital recovering from a minor stroke when he suffered a more severe stroke Saturday, his son Ryan Widenhofer told The Tennessean of Nashville.

“He had the biggest heart of any man I knew and loved his children unconditionally and had a lot of people that cared for him,” Ryan Widenhofer said. “He would have done anything for us — he stretched and stretched to do everything he could for us. Obviously, his career was very nomadic moving everywhere; the life of a football coach takes a lot of your time. But he was there for us as much as he could be.”

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).

After one season as head coach of the USFL’s Oklahoma Outlaws in 1984, he returned to his alma mater and coached Missouri to a 12-31-1 record from 1985-88.

Widenhofer went back to the NFL and was the defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions (1989-92) and linebackers coach for the Cleveland Browns (1993-94) before landing at Vanderbilt.

He was the Commodores’ defensive coordinator from 1995-96 before taking over as head coach and compiling a 15-40 record from 1997-2001.

Widenhofer retired from coaching in 2007 after three years as the defensive coordinator at New Mexico State. His overall record as a head coach was 27-71-1.

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