The Rooney family are at the epicenter of the decades of Pittsburgh Steelers greatness and the Irish American clan continues to inspire new generations of Steelers fans.
“I’ve been in a lot of places – about 14 different cities and colleges – and there’s nothing like the Rooneys,” offensive coordinator Bruce Arians told the Tribune Democrat newspaper in Johnstown.
He especially likes when former CEO Dan Rooney, now ambassador to Ireland, flies in for the games.
“Mr. and Mrs. Rooney come in from Ireland, they’re eating at the hotel on Saturday night with the players, and the guys can’t wait to see them,” Arians said. “I can’t wait to see them. It is special.
“I don’t know if anybody else can replicate it, because he got it from his father, and they’re passing it down through the family. Everybody wants to do it the Steeler way, but I don’t really know if you can.”
Chuck Greenberg, a Pittsburgh sports lawyer who bought the Texas Rangers baseball team last season, agrees it comes back to the Rooneys.
“They have such a sense of who they are and what they wish the organization to be,” Greenberg told the newspaper.
“That kind of self-awareness and discipline leads to stability and consistency. The Steelers have been who they are, with the same DNA – whether it’s through coaching staff, the style of play or the way the organization carries itself – for decades now.”
The team was founded by Art Rooney Sr. on July 8, 1933, but Greenberg says it was not until 1972 and their first title that the team really blossomed.
The choice of coaches has been inspiring: Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher. and now Mike Tomlin patented and improved the Steelers type of smash mouth, in-your-face football,
“We’ve been fortunate,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II, who succeeded his grandfather and father, Dan Rooney.
“There’s no question about it. We’ve been able to find three guys to lead the franchise that have all been great guys. They’ve all had a little different strengths, but they’ve been the kind of people you want to have leading your franchise. So, we’ve been very fortunate that it’s worked out that way.”
But the patience with the coaches, to make sure they got every opportunity, has been the signature mark of the Rooneys.
“Panic doesn’t seem to work,” Art Rooney II said. “Let’s put it that way. There are enough people that seem to have gone through that mode and our feeling is that you pick good people, and you try to stick with them if you have good people. There are ups and downs in any sport, but if you have the right people in place, you’ll always have a chance to be successful, and that’s what we do.”
It is the family-like atmosphere that ensures the Rooneys keep the incredible loyalty they enjoy among players and fans alike.
“They are at practice every day, shaking hands with us, saying hello to us and asking us how our families are,” tight end Heath Miller told the newspaper. “I feel like there is a personal connection that goes along with that, and I think that goes a long way when you are running a business. It could be any type of business, but especially in football, it goes a long way.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger agrees.
“When you hear things from former players, current players, guys who have been around. When you see Mr. Rooney every day at practice. After every game he’s shaking your hand, win or lose, so you just kind of know how awesome he is and this organization is.”
Said teammate Brent Keisel: “We are biased, but we feel that it is the greatest organization in the National Football League, and it is because of the Rooneys."