Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Passing of Dan Rooney

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Dan Rooney

As a lifelong Steeler fan, I can't let today pass without mentioning the news of Dan Rooney's passing. I happened to be living in Pittsburgh when Art Rooney, the original owner and patriarch of the team, passed away after a long and colorful life. He was a legendary figure who was much beloved not only in Pittsburgh, but within the sport itself.

If Dan Rooney had big shoes to fill when he took over operations of the Steelers in 1969, he did it admirably. The team had never so much as won  a divisional title until the great Steeler teams of the 1970s came along and won four super bowls in 6 years. It was Dan Rooney who brought in Chuck Noll as head coach, and the subsequent drafts produced the players who would make the Steelers the pride of Pittsburgh. The team has gone from a doormat in their first three decades to six-time super bowl champions and one of the most successful franchises in the NFL.

Through the decades, Dan Rooney became one of the NFL's most influential leaders, not because he had more money than the other owners (he didn't), but because of his moral compass and sense of what was right. It was the Rooney Rule that today mandates that teams interview minority candidates in filling head coaching vacancies. Some might consider that a form of affirmative action, but in a league with some 55%  black players, it would be absurd not to have black coaches as well. Rooney himself hired Mike Tomlin as head coach.  A decade later, Tomlin has taken his team twice to the super bowl with one title. He is one of the NFL's most respected head coaches.

It should also be noted that Dan served his country as ambassador to Ireland.

The day that Art Rooney passed, the news was announced on the radio in the morning. The rest of the day the local radio stations devoted their time to cheerful reminisces about "the Chief". I have a feeling that we will see the same reaction with the passing of Dan.

The Steelers have been under the ownership of the Rooney family since their founding in 1933. They have run the team with class. Dan Rooney was a great NFL executive and a great man as well. He did his city proud.

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