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The fifth-oldest franchise in the NFL, the Steelers were founded on July 8, 1933, by Arthur Joseph Rooney. Originally named the Pittsburgh Pirates, they were a member of the Eastern Division of the 10-team NFL. The other four current NFL teams in existence at that time were the Chicago (Arizona) Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and New York Giants.
One of the great pioneers of the sports world, Art Rooney passed away on August 25, 1988, following a stroke at the age of 87. “The Chief”, as he was affectionately known, is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is remembered as one of Pittsburgh’s great people.
Born on January 27, 1901, in Coultersville, Pa., Art Rooney was the oldest of Daniel and Margaret Rooney’s nine children. He grew up in Old Allegheny, now known as Pittsburgh’s North Side, and until his death he lived on the North Side just a short distance from Three Rivers Stadium.
Rooney attended St. Peter’s Parochial School and Duquesne University Prep School. He studied collegiately at Indiana (Pa.) Normal, which is now Indiana University of Pennsylvania, as well as at Georgetown and Duquesne.
An exceptional all-around athlete, Rooney held middleweight and welterweight titles from the AAU Boxing Championships and was named to the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team in 1920, although he did not participate in the Olympic Games. He played minor league baseball from 1920-25 before a promising career was cut short by an arm injury. Rooney continued playing football for several semi-pro teams in the Pittsburgh area. He was married on June 11, 1931, to Kathleen McNulty, and the couple had five sons — Daniel, Art Jr., Tim, John and Pat. In 1964, Rooney was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his contributions to the growth of the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
By the mid-1960s, Steelers founder Art Rooney had begun to turn over much of the operation of the Steelers to his oldest son, Dan. After having worked in every area of the organization since 1955, Daniel M. Rooney was named president of the Steelers in 1975. In 2000, Dan Rooney was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He joined his his father Art to form only the second father-son tandem to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The late New York Giants owner Wellington Mara and his father Tim were the first.
Now in his 51st year with the organization, he is one of the most active NFL owners and one of Pittsburgh’s most involved executives in civic affairs. Among his community activities, Dan Rooney is a board member for The United Way of America, The American Ireland Fund, The American Diabetes Association, Presbyterian University Hospital, The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and Duquesne University.
Dan Rooney has been a member of several NFL committees over the past 30-plus years. He has served on the board of directors for the NFL Trust Fund, NFL Films and the Scheduling Committee. He was appointed chairman of the Expansion Committee in 1973, which considered new franchise locations and directed the addition of Seattle and Tampa Bay as expansion teams in 1976.
In 1976, Rooney was also named chairman of the Negotiating Committee, and in 1982 he contributed to the negotiations for the Collective Bargaining Agreement for the NFL and the Players’ Association. He again played a key role in the labor agreement reached between NFL owners and players in 1993. Rooney was also largely responsible for developing the realignment plan and scheduling format that the NFL adopted prior to the 2002 season. In October 2002, he was named chairman of the NFL’s Diversity in the Workplace Committee. Rooney is also a member of the eight-person Management Council Executive Committee, the Hall of Fame Committee and the NFL Properties Executive Committee. In February 1999, he was named the recipient of the Philadelphia Maxwell Football Club’s Francis J. “Reds” Bagnell Award for outstanding contributions to the game of football.
Daniel M. Rooney was born on Pittsburgh’s North Side on July 20, 1932. He is a 1950 graduate of North Catholic High School, where he played quarterback on the varsity football team. He went on to graduate from Duquesne University in 1955 with a bachelor of arts degree in accounting. Rooney and his wife Patricia live on the North Side. The Rooneys have nine children.
In 2002, Dan Rooney officially turned over the title of Steelers’ team president to his oldest son, Art Rooney II, who had previously served as the team’s vice presdent and general counsel. Art II also previously served as Chairman of the Board of Klett Rooney Lieber & Schorling, Attorneys at Law. A 1978 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh where he majored in political science, Art II received his law degree from Duquesne University School of Law in 1982. He and his wife Greta have four children.