The Steelers lost one of their own Thursday.
Team chairman Dan Rooney has died at the age of 84, the team announced.
Rooney's father, Art, founded the Steelers in 1933 and Dan Rooney eventually succeeded his father as the team's primary owner. Dan Rooney was the team president from 1975 to 2002 and became the Steelers' chairman in 2003. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
The NFL's "Rooney Rule," which mandates that teams interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching and senior football operation jobs, was implemented in 2002 and is named for the longtime Steelers owner.
President Barack Obama appointed Rooney as the U.S. ambassador to Ireland in 2009, a position he held until December of 2012.
Rooney joined the Steelers in 1955, following his graduation from Duquesne University. He worked for his father in the team's front office and was integral in the hiring of Chuck Noll as the Steelers' head coach in 1969.
Under Noll, and Rooney's leadership, the Steelers won four Super Bowl championships from 1974-79.
The Rooney family established one of the most consistent and stable franchises in the NFL. Noll remained the team's head coach until 1991 and was replaced by Bill Cowher, who was the coach for 15 years before Mike Tomlin took over. Since 1969, the Steelers have had three head coaches and played in eight Super Bowls with six championships.
RIP Dan. My Mentor & friend. Thank you for your Guidance & Wisdom. I came a Young Coach & left a Better Man. Your spirit will live forever.
— Bill Cowher (@CowherCBS) April 13, 2017
The Steelers reached another Super Bowl in 1995 and, after Rooney handed over day-to-day operations of the Steelers to his son, Art Rooney II, the Steelers went to three more Super Bowls and winning in 2005 and 2008.
Thank u Mr. Rooney! Your legacy will go on. Ive been blessed 2 have the opportunity 2 know & speak w/ u. Steelers would not b the same w/o u pic.twitter.com/1cppfRINhg
— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) April 13, 2017
During his time as the Steelers owner, Rooney served on the board of directors for the NFL Trust Fund, NFL Films, and the scheduling committee. Rooney was also the chairman of the NFL's expansion committee that added Seattle and Tampa Bay to the league in 1976.
"Few men have contributed as much to the National Football League as Dan Rooney," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he was one of the finest men in the history of our game and it was a privilege to work alongside him for so many years.
"Dan’s dedication to the game, to the players and coaches, to his beloved Pittsburgh, and to Steelers fans everywhere was unparalleled.He was a role model and trusted colleague to commissioners since Bert Bell, countless NFL owners, and so many others in and out of the NFL.A voice of reason on a wide range of topics, including diversity and labor relations, Dan always had the league’s best interests at heart.For my part, Dan’s friendship and counsel were both inspiring and irreplaceable.My heart goes out to Patricia, Art, and the entire Rooney family on the loss of this extraordinary man."
Rooney and his wife, Patricia, had nine children. Dan and Art Rooney are just one of two father-son pairs in the Hall of Fame. The other two are Giants founder Tim Mara and his son Wellington. The Rooney are Mara families are NFL royalty and are even connected outside of football. Dan Rooney was the great-uncle of actresses Rooney and Kate Mara, who are also the granddaughters of Wellington Mara.
When Rooney's brothers wanted to sell their shares of the team in 2008 and invest in other ventures, the NFL had also made it clear a sale that would take the team from the Rooneys would not be approved.Instead of the family losing the team, Dan and Art II found enough minority investorsto buy out Dan Rooney's brothers' shares.
One of the more humble men the NFL has ever known, Rooney credited his father with teaching him the value of relationships and to treat people, of any color, with respect.
"We didn't think about your skin color or your accent or what church you went to. What mattered was that you lived up to your word, pulled your own weight and looked out for your friends,"Rooney, who was one of the first NFL owners to sign multiple black players, wrote in his memoir.
"I would never quite experience anything like being a Pittsburgh Steeler, playing for Mr. Rooney and the Steeler organization that had such a rich history of just lining up and kicking ass and winning," former linebacker Kevin Greene said last summer at his Hall of Fame induction. "It was awesome to be a part of that, playing in front of the Steeler Nation and feeding off that energy from those fans.
"Make no mistake, it was the pinnacle of my football life. Mr. Rooney, thank you."