A Steelers' Tradition


CLASS OF 2000 Enshrinee: DAN ROONEY


In 1973, after the Steelers posted a 10-4 record and earned a Wild Card berth in the playoffs, Rooney was named The Sporting News NFL Executive of the Year, an honor voted on by the NFL's general managers. Dan's response upon learning of the honor was, "You're kidding," as he thought someone was pulling his leg. Suddenly, the reserved "behind-the-scenes guy" was front and center and being acknowledged by his peers for the near miraculous turnaround of the Steelers' franchise. "I think it was a combination of things, people, and timing," he humbly offered.

"It was Chuck Noll coming at the right time, Artie's (Art Rooney, Jr.) work with personnel, the new stadium. It might have happened with any one of them - but it did happen with that combination."

The turnaround continued in 1974 as the Steelers won the first of six consecutive AFC Central titles and the first of four Super Bowls. 

In 1975, after 20 years of working in nearly every conceivable capacity Dan Rooney was "officially" named president of the Steelers. "When I became president in 1975, not much changed," he claimed, still trying to deflect credit. Rather than accept the responsibility for the team's successes, Dan preferred to remind people of his father's accomplishments.

"From day one until this day," he told an interviewer in 1987, "my father set the tone on how the Steelers operate. He is a people person. He has always said what the people think is important, and that we have to think that way. He very much felt that everyone was his equal and that they should be treated that way, players, coaches, girls in the office, everybody. You must treat people with respect. Hopefully, some of that has rubbed off on me and I follow that."

At the same time Rooney was using his formidable skills to mold a model sports franchise, he also emerged as one of the most active figures in NFL operations. His league functions have included membership on the board of directors for the NFL Trust Fund, NFL Films, and the Scheduling Committee. 

In 1973, he was appointed Chairman of the league's Expansion Committee that added Seattle and Tampa Bay to the NFL in 1976. He was named Chairman of the Negotiating Committee in 1976, and in 1982 he contributed to the negotiations for the Collective Bargaining Agreement for NFL owners and the Players Association. Recognized by both sides for his patience and reasonable voice of moderation, he again played a key role in the labor agreement reached in 1993 between the NFL owners and players. He is currently a member of the eight-person Management Council Executive Committee and the Hall of Fame Committee, the NFL Properties Executive Committee, and the Player/Club Operations Committee. 

"They put him in areas where they need a little leadership, and he seems to have the ability to get people to cooperate," said former New York Giants general manager George Young. "He has great credibility."

A humble family man that shies away from attention, Dan Rooney has not let success change him or influence his values. Although he may not be as publicly outgoing as his father, who passed away in 1988 was, Rooney remains one of Pittsburgh's most involved executives in civic affairs. He serves on the boards of the United Way of America, the American Diabetes Association, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, Presbyterian University Hospital, Duquesne University, and The American Ireland Fund.

Dan Rooney's contributions to pro football, the Steelers, and the city of Pittsburgh are many. Although he is proud of his accomplishments he rarely sites them. Still, his false modesty has not prevented the civic and sports communities and in particular, the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Board of Selectors, from recognizing his innumerable achievements. With his election to the Hall of Fame, Dan Rooney joined not only his father, but also an elite fraternity of men who individually and collectively represent the best the sport has offered.

The success of the Steelers organization continues today. The franchise added two more Super Bowl championships following Rooney's election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


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