There is a saying that goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s a cliché that has persevered because there is a grain of truth to it, even in football. The Pittsburgh Steelers might bring into the offseason a number of new faces, but still many familiar ones, and they always end up back at Saint Vincent College.
But there is one thing this year that is quite different, and will remain different, forever. Latrobe, and the Steelers, will never again feel the physical presence of their longtime owner, Dan Rooney, who passed away earlier this year.
And for as much as we might have discussed this at the time, one area that we really didn’t touch on is pretty much the most basic one that there is whenever it comes to dealing with death: the affect that it has on the family.
The Steelers’ primary owner today just so happens to be Dan Rooney’s son, Art Rooney II, who has been in day-to-day control of the organization for some time now, but who certainly sought his father’s advice and guidance on a near-daily basis. Both were ever-present wherever the Steelers were.
“It’s strange, it really is”, he Art said while being interviewed on SiriusXM radio a couple of nights ago about heading into Latrobe with his father no longer there. “It’s just going through things that you’ve been through a lot of times that he was there for and now he’s not”.
I’m sure that anybody who has lost a close loved one, most likely a parent, knows exactly what the Steelers owner is talking about, because we all feel it. We see things. Art sees things. “That first day of camp, just looking around and seeing things that reminded me of him, it was a hard day”, he said.
The spiritual leader of the college came over to him at the time to remind him, “his spirit is with us”, something that Rooney said he keeps in his thoughts. After all, Dan Rooney left such an indelible mark on the franchise that it’s pretty unavoidable.
But when it comes to paying homage to his legacy, the Steelers plan to be low-key, as Dan was. “The opening weekend we’ll have a number of things to make sure that his memory and spirit are recognized”, he said, in addition to the sticker they will wear. “I know the guys are thinking about him as much as well all are”.
But, he said, “we’re not going to say this season’s dedicated him because we approach every season the same way and he wouldn’t want us to let him get in the way of anything either, so we’ll go about our business the regular way and we’ll be thinking of him all the time”.