Roethlisberger Speaks To What Dan Rooney Meant To Him, Steelers’ Franchise

Home openers are always special days. But yesterday in Pittsburgh had extra meaning. It was the first game without Dan Rooney, who, born in 1932, had been alive to witness all 1236 games in Steelers’ history. While the day was somber, it was a one which deserved celebration. The team, as they will all year, wore DMR patches on their jersey. Rooney was featured on the gamebook, past players like Joe Greene and Franco Harris attended, and Ben Roethlisberger ran out of the tunnel waving a flag bearing his initials.

After the game, Roethlisberger was asked about the emotions and meaning of the day.

“Probably not with words,” he said when asked to describe what Rooney meant to him. “He was a grandfather figure to everybody. He just treated everybody the same. It didn’t matter who you were, where you came from, what you did. Everybody was important to him. Always had time to shake your hand, look at you, talk to you. Obviously, he drafted me. Took a chance on me. I know he went in that draft room and said, ‘we’re not passing him up.’ I know I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. Just a lot of love for him and the family.”

As the story goes, Bill Cowher wanted to draft guard Shawn Andrews. But Rooney intervened, something the family rarely did, and convinced Cowher to take Roethlisberger.

From Rooney’s book via Ed Bouchette and the PPG.

“But when our turn came, I couldn’t bear the thought of passing on another great quarterback prospect the way we had passed on Dan Marino in 1983, so I steered the conversation around to Roethlisberger. After some more talk, we came to a consensus and picked Roethlisberger.”

Clearly, one of the best decisions the franchise mas made over the last three decades.

Roethlisberger said he was more than happy to run out of the tunnel with the flag even though Art Rooney II was adamant he didn’t want anything that would distract the team. Initially, Roethlisberger said the plan to wave the flag was nixed until Ben brought it back up on Saturday.

“Art was just nervous that it’d be a burden to me or whoever would carry it. I was like, ‘absolutely not. It would be an honor to honor him.’ I just think it was very appropriate.”

With the win, the Steelers gave Rooney II the game ball, who said he would pass it on to Dan Rooney’s wife, Patricia.

Steelers beating the Vikings. Just like their first Super Bowl in 1974. I don’t think Rooney would want it any other way.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • RickM

    Very nice story. Thanks.

  • JT

    I was at the game. Ben and James waving around that flag gave me chills. They really are a family.

  • Ike Evans

    The story of old man rooney wanting to take marino and them talking him out of it is one of the best in steelers lore. Thats why dan rooney wouldn’t let it happen again…he felt responsible for 83 …Can you imagine if we had marino? Man…..

  • ThatGuy

    That top picture is awesome.

  • VaDave

    Keep in mind, he lost out on the Unitas discussion in the 50s too… I get the deal with Gabe Rivera, even though he was tragically injured. But Shawn Andrews??? That couldn’t possibly been a long discussion….

  • Doogie

    Anyone else getting bombarded by Taboola ads?

  • Ike Evans

    Really? Wooooooow I had no idea

  • StolenUpVotes

    The game of football always seems to work in this way. Beating the Vikes in the home opener after the passing of Dan Rooney. ……if you told me this 5 years ago I’d say no way it could happen

  • NCSteel

    I remember the Super Bowl victory over the Vikings. I remember both Art I and Dan.
    What extrodinary men. Not because they owned the Steelers, rather,
    Because of what super people they were.
    Remembering all of that, It’s like remembering my own youth, my own life.
    Thanks Steelers for winning this one. Thanks Ben for such a nice tribute. Thanks Steelers Depot for giving us this story.
    Thanks to the Good Lord, it’s great to be a Steelers fan.

  • VaDave

    They were scholastic QB contemporaries. Coach Walt Keisling didn’t like him, and Art Senior deferred to his coach over Dan and Art Jr. strenuous objections.

  • Matt Manzo

    He was about 15 ft away from me when he ran out with that flag! I almost cried, but I was too excited! I thought it was just as cool that Harrison ran it back to the sidelines!
    It was a pretty cool first game at Heinz for me!!!

  • Matt Manzo

    Me too! It was such an awesome moment! So many cool things went down that game that I feel blessed to have seen!
    Juju’s Ward-like block on Smith! His first TD! Conners first carry at home for 9yds! I met Alualu’s family and Jujus family on the way out! Felt good to welcome them to Pittsburgh!
    Special day for me!

  • Rocksolid20

    And Len Dawson . Wow the QBs we could have had .

  • VaDave

    Ted Marchiboda was another, Jack Kemp was another….lets just say they were not into development back in the day preferring vets that “knew what they were doing”, not to mention they were usually spent cartridges that worked for cheap. There were a few that were top fight players they brought in, John Henry Johnson was one, Layne, and Big Daddy Lipscome to name a few, but most were yikes.
    .
    Of course the ownership was a lot more collegial back then, and pretty much players were handled much like kids swapping playing cards. I think a lot of the owners were happy with just meeting payroll back then. The lack of revenue sharing and a salary cap meant the small market teams could not be competitive with the New York, Washington, and Chicago teams. Dan Rooney was the driving force behind the parity movement, instituting tools such as revenue sharing and sal cap, to put all teams on an equal footingwhen it came making the league what it is today, and billionaires out of the owners.