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Thoughts On A Year Gone By Without The Ambassador

Pardon me for being a day late on this, but I wanted to make a brief comment on the passing of the one-year anniversary of former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney’s death. Rooney quite literally was among the most important people in all of the American football world, and his absence is still felt.

Much of the influence that he had within the game was not even what could be identified. It was in the influence that he had on others that was of the most wide-reaching impact. And quite frankly, I can only imagine that the league will be all the worse off without his counsel, which all commissioners for decades had sought.

While his son, Art Rooney II, has ably striven to fill his father’s shoes, and I mean in no way to diminish the role that he plays within the league today, I do think that even he would be the first to admit that there was no other voice in the league quite like the Ambassador’s.

He may not have had much of a hands-on role within the day-to-day operations of the Steelers as a football franchise during his later years in the role of Chairman, which was created for him upon his return from serving as the ambassador to Ireland from 2009 to 2012, but he had a tremendous impact on all who worked within the walls of the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

Because of course the building bears his name, and the name of his family. The Steelers are the Rooneys, and no individual person had a greater impact on their fortunes over the past 50 years.

The Steelers were really hoping that they could honor his legacy this past season by claiming a seventh Lombardi Trophy. They made a good run of it, posting one of their best regular-season records in franchise history, but they stumbled out of the gates in the postseason.

I think one thing is clear, and that is that it will be a long time before his legacy fades. It’s not as though his own father, who passed away nearly 30 years ago, is some forgotten figure. The Chief is every bit as much a part of the Pittsburgh mystique as anything else. He did found the team, after all.

I wrote so many articles about Mr. Rooney after he died, from so many different angles of his life, that my fingers nearly went numb. But it just reminded me not only of how far-reaching an impact he had, but what a fantastic life he led.

But when all has been written, I would like to think that his most lasting impact on those who knew him even from a distance would forever be in teaching them how to treat others. Those whom he has hired, such as General Manager Kevin Colbert and Head Coach Mike Tomlin, strive to emulate him both in the workplace and in their personal lives, and for good reason.

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