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Dan Rooney - Forever A Steelers Icon & Legacy

Dan Rooney – Forever A Steelers Icon & Legacy
By Rob Carter

In 1965 the most popular sports in America were baseball, boxing and horse racing. Pro football was as niche, like pro hockey is today. The Steelers were tenants in Pitt Stadium and rarely had capacity crowds.
Yet, who could have predicted that by 2009 the Steelers have had 30 years of sell outs, and Pitt is a tenant in Heinz Field. That Super Bowl and football as a whole would have overtaken baseball as America’s favorite pastime.
One man had the vision and foresight to see this transformation. Dan Rooney. The man who still lives on the North Side or “Old Allegheny” as the old timers still call it. Rarely does an appointment to an ambassadorship cause such serious ramifications in pro football, but such is the rare individual that is Mr. Rooney. So as he leaves his duties as the Steelers chairman, its time to look back on his tenure with the Steelers.
Step back to 1965 and the Steelers were the bottom feeders of the N.F.L. with only one playoff appearance and no championships. They were run by a horse handicapper named, Art Rooney SR., who had purchased the team after a good day at the track.
Art Sr., or “the chief” as he was called, knew how to treat people and always treated them right, but when it came to football he did not understand how to put a winning team on the field. His son, Dan, graduated from Duquesne University, and Art decided to let his son start running the football team.
Dan Rooney soon learned that his father’s way of running a football team was greatly flawed. After hastily hiring an assistant coach from the Green Bay Packers, and suffering 4 more losing seasons, Dan decided it was time for a change in the way the Steelers operations were being conducted.
The first change was that he held an exhaustive search for a new head coach. Which led him to hire a young assistant from the Baltimore Colts named, Chuck Knoll. And that was the beginning of not only a new and improved Steelers, but the Dan Rooney way of running a football team.
And since the change in leadership? The Steelers have won 6 Super Bowls and had only a handful of losing seasons. Dan had to make some tough decision along the way, such as firing his older brother from the scouting department, and keeping Bill Cowher, while getting rid of general manager, Tom Donahoe. All successful changes, not easy but respectfully done.
As Dan Rooney’s influence in the N.F.L. grew, he developed the salary cap and revenue sharing for professional football. This allowed small market teams to stay competitive. His salary structure has been so successful that it has also been copied by other pro leagues, such as the N.B.A. and N.H.L.. In the most recent negotiations between the league and the players union, he was looked upon by both players and owners as an honest and fair negotiator.
A class act, Mr. Dan Rooney, has left a legacy of fair management and took his father’s philosophy of putting people first to a new level. He used his own way of doing what’s right for the organization, and combined them with great success for not just the Steelers, but the entire National Football League. Anyone who steps into Mr. Rooney’s place will have big shoes to fill. Yet even there Dan was prepared for he left a strong philosophy and a blueprint for all who follow.


Rob Carter
***Source used: Mastich E. Andrew and Hallas David F., Dan Rooney My 75years With The Pittsburgh Steelers and The NFL

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy following your articles they always give me something new to think about and I learn something. I didn't realise Dan Rooney lived in the North Side and really had no idea he brought so much to the team. Thanks and keep writing!

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