Pittsburgh Steelers owner and chairman Dan Rooney passed away today. He was 84.
Consider this: from their inception in 1933 through 1971 the Steelers made the playoffs only once. Pittsburgh had a total of only seven winning seasons, and managed only four years where they were two or more games above .500.
Then Dan Rooney took a bigger role in the organization, running the football operations in 1969 and finally formally being announced team president in 1975. He hired Chuck Noll and the team quickly went from annual cellar dwellers to perennial contenders. For those that lament the dark days of the Patriots, where the Steelers were prior to Dan Rooney taking on his role was was far worse. They went 25 years between playoff appearances. 25 years! From 1965-69 Pittsburgh’s record was 14-53-3, finishing in last place in four out of five of those seasons.
A quote from a 1979 Sports Illustrated article shares words of Rooney’s wisdom that certain high profile owners would be wise to heed today.
The Steelers’ chief executive is 46-year-old President Dan Rooney, the oldest son of the team’s founder, 77-year-old Art Rooney. There is no biographical sketch for Dan Rooney in the club’s media guide. “I stay in the background,” he says. “A lot of owners in football think they have to say something profound, particularly to explain a win or a loss. I think the less you say, the better off you are. My job here is to make everyone else’s job easier. The Steeler players get the recognition, and that’s the way it should be. That’s better than having Chuck Noll or Dan Rooney get it. The players are the characters, if you look at football in the entertainment sense.”
While he was growing into his current job in the ’60s, Dan and his brother Art Rooney Jr., who is in charge of the team’s personnel department, determined that the Steelers, who had a history of trading away draft choices, should build through the draft. Only three of the Steelers on the roster for last Sunday’s game—placekicker Gerela, reserve Defensive Back Ray Oldham and reserve Tight End Jim Mandich—started their careers with other franchises.
In 1975 Pittsburgh went 12-2 and won their second consecutive Super Bowl. Rooney remained team president until 2002; during those years the Steelers were the class of the AFC and the best franchise in pro football over the last three decades of the 20th century.
More than anyone else, Dan Rooney was the reason for that turnaround. The Steelers’ long term success was due to the leadership at the top of the organization. Rooney earned his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Rest in peace. Condolences to the Rooney family and Steelers Nation.
Posted Under: NFL Commentary
Tags: AFC AFC North NFL Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Football Hall of Fame