Rooney’s guidance sure to be missed

If ever there was truth behind the myth of things being done “the Steelers Way,” then that truth was embodied in the late Dan Rooney.

Mr. Rooney, who died April 13 at the age of 84, represented being fair minded, charitable and humble, in addition to being very successful. The Steelers of the 1970s, the Super Steelers, the team that he put together with the coach he hired, Chuck Noll, are not always spoken about in the list of greatest NFL teams, perhaps because, like their owner, they just went out and did their job without bragging or showboating. The Steelers repeated Super Bowl appearances under their next two coaches hired by Rooney — Bill Cowher and current coach Mike Tomlin.

Through it all, Rooney stood aside from the spotlight, letting his players and coaches bask in the glory.

In the days since he died, what everyone knew but didn’t always talk about was in full evidence around Rooney: That he was a man of the people, surrounded by true friends from all walks of life, from his North Side Pittsburgh neighborhood to the greats of business, politics and the NFL.

He was remembered as the kind of guy who would take a player like young Ike Taylor into his heart and become a near father figure to him.

He was remembered as a man who was married to his sweetheart, Pat, for 65 years.

He was remembered as a great student of history, a philanthropist and a social justice crusader. Named ambassador to Ireland by President Barack Obama, for whom Rooney campaigned in Steubenville in 2008, Rooney saw to it that the post was more than ceremonial. He opened all counties of Ireland to easier access by international tourists.

“The Rooney Rule” was his doing, by more than words. Under the rule, NFL teams must interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football posts. People of color have become regulars on the sidelines and in the front offices since the rule was implemented after the 2002 firings of coaches Tony Dungy, then of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the late Dennis Green, then of the Minnesota Vikings.

Tom Ridge, former Pennsylvania governor and former Homeland Security secretary, summarized Dan Rooney as “soft spoken,” with “no flamboyance” and “a Pittsburgh guy — successful and humble.”

To be loved by the great and near-great, by the people in the neighborhood and the people who brought thousands into NFL stadiums for decades, to be remembered at the end of life as a good boss, husband, father and man is all anyone could ask for, and Dan Rooney filled all of those roles.

His presence at the helm, preserving and guiding “the Steelers Way,” is already missed.

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