Steelers chairman and NFL icon Dan Rooney died Thursday at the age of 84, this after a lifetime of service to the league and the city of Pittsburgh.
Scott Ferrall, a self-described “Pittsburgh kid,” is incredibly sad that Rooney is gone.
“Well, I think we all are,” Pittsburgh Post Gazette and The Fan mid-day co-host Ron Cook said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Absolutely he’s an icon in the city, just like his father was. . . . I happened to track down his brother today, (and he said), ‘Dan always had two things in his life, first and foremost: his family and his faith. Other than that, football and the Irish were his two loves in life. Here he is, he makes the Pro Football Hall of Fame and he’s the United States Ambassador to Ireland. That’s a pretty good life.’ I think that’s the way we all look at it here. It’s a sad day, but it’s also a celebration of Dan’s incredible life and all the good he did for so many people.”
Rooney took over the Steelers in the 1960s from his father, Art, and helped the franchise win six Super Bowls. He was beloved for the team’s on-field success, of course, but it went beyond that. Indeed, Rooney left an indelible mark on the city and region.
“Dan was such a great community guy here,” Cook said. “Everybody knows him from the six Super Bowls and turning that Steelers franchise around. It was laughable, lovable losers for the better part of 40 years until he really took control of the team and hired Chuck Noll. The rest is history. He never lost his common touch with people.”
Cook remembers Rooney standing in the lunch line in his team’s facility behind media and office workers – in his 80s. Rooney didn’t cut in line or have someone fetch his food. He stood in line with the common man and waited his turn.
“Who does that?” Cook said, stunned. “Who does that?”
Ultimately, Rooney will be remembered for his contributions to not only the Steelers, but also the NFL.
“You could argue he had more influence than just about anybody in the history of the league,” Cook said. “He was big in labor negotiations, pushing for peace between the players and the owners. He was big on racial equality, he believed in diversity, and he believed in doing what’s right for the league as a whole, not necessarily just what’s right for the Steelers. I think that is so uncommon in this day and age, but his dad taught him that: Do what’s right right for the league because if the league prospers, everybody is going to benefit. He’ll be sorely missed.”