PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers, who finished the 1988 season with their poorest record in nearly two decades, Tuesday announced the resignation of defensive coordinator Tony Dungy and the firing of four assistant coaches.
Dismissal of some assistants had been expected, but Dungy's resignation came as a surprise.
The assistants let go were linebackers coach Jed Hughes, guards-centers coach Hal Hunter, special teams coach Dennis Fitzgerald and conditioning coach Walt Evans.
The firings came after two weeks of meetings between coach Chuck Noll and team president Dan Rooney, who had expressed displeasure with the coaching staff during the 1988 season.
The Steelers had a record of 5-11, their worst since 1969.
The last time Noll fired an assistant coach was in 1981 when Dick Walker was relieved of his duties, and the four firings at one time are the most in his 20 years as head coach.
There had been indications that Hughes and some other assistants might be fired, no sign that Dungy, 32, would quit. In the past few years, Dungy has been considered a leading candidate to become the first black head coach in the NFL.
Both Indianapolis and Denver were said to be interested in Dungy at one time, and both organizations still are looking for defensive coordinators. Dungy also was interviewed for the head coaching job of the Philadelphia Eagles before owner Norman Braman hired Buddy Ryan.
Noll made Dungy the youngest assistant coach in the league in 1981 when he hired him as the secondary coach at the age of 25. Dungy was named defensive coordinator two years later.
Hughes, 41, joined the Steelers in 1984 as outside linebackers coach and became responsible for all the linebackers in 1987.
Hunter, 54, coached the team's guards and centers for the past four seasons. He was a member of Frank Kush's staff with the Colts, and was the interim head coach when Kush was fired before the final game of the 1984 season.
Evans, 37, had been the Steelers' conditioning coach since 1983.
Fitzgerald, 52 was hired as inside linebackers coach in 1982 and later became a special teams coach.