Jake Deemer – Staff Writer
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On the morning of Thursday April 13, the sports world lost a legend and Pittsburgh Steeler icon, Dan Rooney. He was the son of Steeler’s founder Art “The Chief” Rooney Sr., and served as president of the team from 1975-2002 before serving as chairman for the remainder of his life.
Rooney experienced all six Super Bowl championships in Pittsburgh’s front office, four as president and the last two as chairman. Rooney was at the age of 1 when the Steelers were established in 1933 and essentially grew up with the team.
Rooney started by just hanging out at practices and the front office as a young boy, but certainly followed in his father’s footsteps to eventually handle the day-to-day operations.
One of the most notable attributes of the Steelers franchise is the fact that the team has only had three head coaches in 48 years. It started with the hiring of Chuck Noll who led the franchise to four championships in the 1970s; Noll was personally selected by Rooney.
Rooney was a player-friendly executive and impacted many lives through his tenure. In 2003, the NFL implemented what is known as the “Rooney Rule.” The Rooney Rule forces NFL teams to interview at least one minority while searching for head coaching or senior football operation job candidates. This rule arguably led to the hiring of Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin.
Despite the remarkable success of the franchise, Rooney was an activist—not only within the Pittsburgh community, but made contributions all around the world. Although Rooney was a republican, he supported Democratic Party presidential nominee Barack Obama.
After Obama was elected President of the United States, Rooney was appointed as an ambassador to Ireland following Rooney’s Irish-American charitable actions. Rooney will be missed among many Americans and football fans alike.