In January 1975, the Pittsburgh Steelers won their first National Football League championship by beating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX. In the locker room after the game, celebrating Steelers gathered around the team founder Art Rooney to present him with the game ball.
With the possible exception of the vanquished Vikings, the entire sports world rejoiced for the revered Mr. Rooney, who at long last had won the championship, which he had sought so diligently for so long. Rooney purchased the Pittsburgh franchise (originally known as the Pirates) in 1933.
Although it was his first venture into the NFL, Rooney was a well-known sportsman in the Pittsburgh area having previously successful run semi-pro clubs. Unfortunately, his NFL success was slow to come. In his first eight years of ownership, the team managed only 24 victories and Rooney lost money every year.
The team’s first winning season came in 1942. A tie for the Eastern Division title in 1947 was the nearest thing to a championship the Steelers experienced in their first 40 seasons. It was not that Rooney didn't try. In 1938 he shocked the sports world by signing Byron "Whizzer" White, the Colorado All-America, to a then unthinkable $15,000 contract.
Rooney’s continued faith in pro football was something that proved to be a guiding light for the NFL during the depression years. Finally, in the 1970s, the team hit on the right combination, of coaches and players and the Steelers became the most dominant team of an entire decade, winning four Super Bowls. The Steelers of the 1970s were armed with exceptionally talented athletes but, spiritually and emotionally, what they accomplished was a win for Mr. Rooney, a win for love, warmth and kindness, all rare traits that "The Chief" continually exhibited during his more than half century involvement in NFL football.