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Longtime Steelers OL, Broadcaster Tunch Ilkin Diagnosed with ALS

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Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers broadcaster and former member of the team’s offensive line Tunch Ilkin has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, he announced in a video on Thursday.

“I want to fight this thing,” Ilkin said. “I’m not going to lay down and take this lightly.”

Ilkin, 63, was drafted by the Steelers out of Indiana State in the sixth round of the 1980 NFL Draft. A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Ilkin became a fixture at tackle for the Steelers, starting for 10 years at right tackle and playing in two Pro Bowls.

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After his retirement, Ilkin immediately took to broadcasting, with his popular “Lunch with Tunch” pregame interview segment. He officially became a part of the Steelers Radio Network broadcast of the team’s games in 1998, joining Bill Hillgrove and Myron Cope for a three-man booth. When Cope retired in 2004, Ilkin and Hillgrove became a two-man pairing.

ALS is a progressive disease of the nervous system that causes lack of muscle control. It’s frequently named for Gehrig, the New York Yankees star whose diagnosis with the disease ended his playing career at age 36 in 1939 and caused his death in 1941.

There is no cure for ALS, and it is not clear what causes the disease. Treatments can help mitigate the symptoms. The average lifespan following diagnosis is two to four years, according to a 2013 study by the National Institute of Health.

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