For my money, there isn’t a more important person to the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization and their success over time than Dan Rooney. I’m sure I’m not really going out on a limb in saying that. But at the same time, I also think that his father’s immense legacy and influence has left a shadow over Art Rooney II that will probably never be lifted regarding how he’s perceived.
Do you remember last year, for example, when the team was facing absurd controversy and accusations at the hands of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell? Do you remember how people like Aditi Kinkhabwala were claiming that they’ve heard people saying things have not been the same since Dan Rooney died?
Regardless of one’s perception as to the degree of truth in that statement, it’s a prime example of the sort of legacy that hangs over Art Rooney’s head every time he opens his mouth. But we have to remember that we don’t hear everything that happens behind closed doors.
Yesterday, after officially signing a four-year extension to likely keep him in Pittsburgh for the remainder of his career, Cameron Heyward talked about how a conversation with Rooney got the ball rolling to finally get the deal done when he thought it was dead.
“I would say we started about three weeks ago, but then talks kind of broke off this past week. To be honest with you, I thought it was dead”, he told reporters. “I didn’t think we were even gonna get there at all. But man, even yesterday, I came up here around eight o’clock in the morning. I won’t divulge what was said, but me and Mr. Rooney got to talking, and then—I’m just appreciative of him. I understand it’s a family business, and I understand how seriously he takes this, but I wanted to be a Pittsburgh Steeler, and he made that happen for me”.
“I didn’t know the extent of if they wanted to do a deal or not”, he added, at a later part in the press conference. “I had a conversation before we even got started with Mr. Rooney with my intentions to let him know that I’m locked in on this season no matter what, I’d like to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. And he let me know then, you know, we’ll see what we can do. It’s been a process to get to this point. I can’t stress that enough. But this was something that’s just not done just out of comfortability or just to do it. I feel like they believe in me, and I feel like they think I can earn this contract”.
Dan Rooney once said that letting Rod Woodson go was one of the biggest mistakes he’s ever made. Since then, they have tried their best to avoid making such mistakes, and rare has it been that they have let such an important player slip through their grasp. Heyward always felt like a Steeler for life. Dan’s son Art helped make that a likely reality.