Legendary Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, whose impact on professional football off the field eclipsed even his team’s six Super Bowl championships, died Thursday.
He was 84.
Inheriting the Steelers from his father and team founder, Art Sr., in the ’60s, he hired a then-little regarded coaching assistant from the Colts by the name of Chuck Noll to lead the team. Within 12 years, he had amassed the team’s first four Super Bowl trophies.
“Under his leadership since the late 1960s, the Steelers transformed from lovable losers into a Super Bowl dynasty in the 1970s and remain among the most successful and popular franchises in the game,” writes Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ed Bouchette in his tribute.
One of the most well-respected owners in the NFL, Rooney was instrumental in settling two players’ strikes and led the fight to institute the “Rooney” Rule, which mandates that teams must interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching vacancies in an effort to increase diversity. (To that point, the Steelers’ current head coach, Mike Tomlin, is one of eight minority head coaches in the league today.)
He joined his father in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
Off the field, he proved a leader as well, serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland at then–President Obama’s behest.
He served in that post until 2012, still flying from Dublin to watch the Steelers play home games.