Dan Rooney left memorable stamp on Pittsburgh Steelers and NFL


The chateau where Dan Rooney grew adult and lived to his final days is usually dual stories high with a tiny porch, located on a medium retard on Pittsburgh’s north side not distant from a quick food grill and some dull lots. You can roughly see it from Heinz Field, and for years, Rooney would travel a burst sidewalks down a towering to get to Steelers home games, one of a many successful people in NFL story remaining resolutely a partial of a city where he resided — save for one really distinguished stop — all his life.


On Thursday, Rooney, a worshiped authority of a Steelers, a deeply reputable primogenitor of a NFL and, not incidentally, a former United States Ambassador to Ireland, died during age 84, the organisation announced.

Few people in NFL story had as many change for as prolonged a duration of time as Rooney did — he was a playmate of 3 commissioners, helped settle labor disputes and pushed a joining toward diversity, among other things — and few others did it all with such a common touch, remaining a partial of a blue-collar city that done his life as certainly as he done football.


“Few organisation have contributed as many to a National Football League as Dan Rooney,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell pronounced in a statement. “A member of a Pro Football Hall of Fame, he was one of a excellent organisation in a story of a diversion and it was a payoff to work alongside him for so many years. Dan’s loyalty to a game, to a players and coaches, to his dear Pittsburgh, and to Steelers fans everywhere was unparalleled. He was a purpose indication and devoted co-worker to commissioners given Bert Bell, large NFL owners, and so many others in and out of a NFL. A voice of reason on a far-reaching operation of topics, including farrago and labor relations, Dan always had a league’s best interests during heart. For my part, Dan’s loyalty and warn were both moving and irreplaceable. My heart goes out to Patricia, Art, and a whole Rooney family on a detriment of this unusual man.”

Rooney will be remembered by fans for a unusual stamp he left on a diversion and so many more. But for those who knew him good or worked for him, their love spawned from a fact that he still ate in a organisation cafeteria with a secretaries, went to any actor in a locker room after any diversion to shake his hand, stopped by a press room and press box to discuss with reporters — even mins before one of a Steelers’ Super Bowls was about to flog off — and once took a visiting contributor on a debate of his neighborhood, pulling his possess Buick. One six-week widen in 2009 summed adult a extent of his experiences: The Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl in Feb and Rooney was nominated, on St. Patrick’s Day, to be a United States Ambassador to Ireland.

Rooney was innate in 1932, suitably a year before a Steelers’ birth, and his whole life was threaded by a organisation founded by his father, Art “The Chief” Rooney. He was a round child as a teenager, before he began personification halfback during North Catholic High School. That was a position that rubbed a football in a single-wing offense, and Rooney was good adequate during it to be comparison second-team All-City Catholic League. The first-team preference was Johnny Unitas. Rooney used to giggle during that, yet not during a fact that a Steelers cut Unitas before he went on to mass with a Baltimore Colts. Rooney, meanwhile, went to Duquesne University and got a grade in accounting, signing players to contracts while he was still in college. He sole tickets and ad space in a diversion programs, training any facet of a business in a helper educational that several Rooneys still follow to this day.

By a time he was in his early 30s, Rooney was assisting his father run a Steelers. They would attend joining meetings together, always sitting subsequent to a Mara family that still owns a New York Giants. And Rooney mostly pronounced that one of their biggest accomplishments was never giving in to a courtship by other cities that wanted a Steelers to immigrate in a 1950s and ’60s, reckoning out a approach to make a authorization successful and viable, even as Pittsburgh went by thespian mercantile cycles.

Much of a Steelers’ success and viability can be traced to when Rooney took some-more of a palm in a day-to-day operations of a team. In 1969, he urged his father not to sinecure another of his friends and instead to implement Chuck Noll as conduct manager — a preference that perpetually altered a arena of a team. In 1987, he dismissed his possess brother, Art. Jr., who was afterwards in assign of actor personnel, giving him other duties. He pushed his coaches and crew people to cruise drafting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, since he was still steamed that Pittsburgh’s possess Dan Marino had played elsewhere.


But he competence have had an even larger impact on a joining as a whole. Commissioners Pete Rozelle, Paul Tagliabue and Goodell all came to rest on his insight. He was a coach to Goodell, and when Goodell was comparison by owners to be a commissioner, it was Rooney who went to his hotel room to tell him. Rooney mostly took a lead in labor negotiations with players, generally during a quarrelsome agreement negotiations of a 1980s and ’90s, earning a repute as a moderator. He once pronounced in an talk that he never done any preference formed on money. Even after he had ceded day-to-day control of a Steelers to his possess son, Art II, Rooney came out publicly opposite an 18-game unchanging season when other owners were pulling for it during labor negotiations.

His truth competence be best summed adult in one story about a time when a NFL was deliberation ways to raise their selling opportunities. During a conversation, an NFL jersey — with dozens of sponsorship decals attached, creation it demeanour like a NASCAR driver’s jumpsuit — arrived during a joining office. Rooney had sent it to make a point.

“Our business is a game; we’re not in this thing to make all a income in a world,” Rooney told me about that ploy, for a story that ran in a New York Times. “I consider some other teams still do things a way. But on this, we competence be a final man on a mountain.”

Maybe they were. But Rooney told that story usually days before a Steelers won their fifth Super Bowl.

Rooney’s many famous contribution, though, was his lobbying associate owners to support a order that compulsory teams to talk minority possibilities for coaching jobs, a vicious step that increasing a farrago of a league. The order was indeed formulated by a joining office, yet Tagliabue knew there were few owners who could fuse support for it. He asked Rooney to take a lead and a order has come to be famous as a Rooney Rule. Rooney is in a Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with his father, one of usually dual father-son pairs to be so respected (the other: Tim and Wellington Mara of a Giants). The Rooneys are deliberate such a vicious component of a NFL that, in 2008, when outsiders wanted to buy a determining seductiveness in a franchise, a joining done it transparent that other owners would not approve a sale that took a organisation from a Rooneys. Instead, Dan and Art II cobbled together a organisation of minority investors that authorised them to keep a team.

A few months later, Rooney, a lifelong believer of Irish causes, perceived a prerogative for his early publicity of a immature senator from Chicago, Barack Obama. The Rooneys were not expected a wealthiest family in Pittsburgh, yet they were deliberate powerful. Rooney pronounced during a time that he was desirous in partial by his possess grandchildren’s unrestrained for Obama, nonetheless a publicity hurt some Steelers fans, who were used to a Rooneys gripping their politics private.

Still, when Rooney and his wife, Patricia, changed to Dublin — and began a three-year army that enclosed visits to any of a 32 counties in Ireland, a initial for a U.S. envoy — Rooney remained trustworthy to a team. A complement was set adult so he could watch Steelers games during his chateau there, and while he missed training camps for a initial time in his life, he frequently took exhausting trips home to see a organisation on Sundays. He combined a football margin to a grand ambassador’s chateau in Dublin and hosted Jul 4th dwindle football games. He spoke to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regularly, including one time when he took a call from her while chatting in a press box usually before kickoff for a Steelers game. Even when he was away, he spoke daily to his son, Art II, about a organisation and frequently to Goodell.


But if Rooney’s accomplishments were unconditional in scope, his demeanour could be summed adult in his home. He never authorised his autobiography to be printed in a team’s media guide, he went to Mass any day, he gathering himself to work and when a Steelers went to a Super Bowl, so did any organisation employee, including a long-time workers in a cafeteria. Only a few years ago, he invited me to a cooking with his mother during a small, family-owned Italian spot. Located subsequent to a sanatorium and perched adult a few concrete stairs from a street, a grill had cinema of a aged Forbes Field and Steelers players — and his father, Art — on a wall. After dinner, he gathering us by a area in a guided tour, indicating out his home and a internal park, a perspective of downtown and a stadium.

When we initial showed adult to write about his team, he invited me to lay with them during lunch. “I’m Dan,” he introduced himself. And afterwards he told me a story of a steel mills that used to work on a site of a Steelers’ training trickery and of a tyrannise that still runs behind it. “If we need me,” he pronounced when lunch was over, “I’m down a hall.” The gymnasium was lined with Super Bowl trophies.

Rooney’s sole indulgence, it seemed, was his tiny private plane. Until really late in his life, he flew it himself to owners’ meetings and to a Steelers’ training stay in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, many to a dismay of family members who removed a time a alighting rigging would not come down.

Rooney mostly pronounced that it was his father who taught him to value people. Bill Nunn, who non-stop a tube to black college players when he began scouting for a Steelers in a 1960s, once pronounced that Rooney did not see color.

“In those days, flourishing adult on a North Side, we didn’t consider about your skin tone or your accent or what church we went to,” Rooney wrote in his memoir, “Dan Rooney: My 75 Years with a Pittsburgh Steelers and a NFL.” “What mattered was that we lived adult to your word, pulled your possess weight and looked out for your friends.”

Rooney never forgot that ethos. He brought it to a Steelers and a NFL, assisting to propel their measureless resources and popularity, all that approach from that tiny chateau adult a hill.

Follow Judy Battista on Twitter @judybattista.


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