Dan Rooney Weighs In On Big Ben, President Obama, Being (Somewhat) Away From The Game
The Rooneys are NFL royalty. No need for me to tell you that. The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the few remaining family run franchises in all of professional sports, and none go about their business more professionally, capably or consistently than do the Rooneys. Dan Rooney has always been an integral part of the organization’s success dating back to the team’s halcyon days of the 1970s. In recent years he’s handed over the reins to the next generation of Rooney children, but don’t think he’s not still involved in critical decisions. Like say, how the Steelers were going to handle the Ben Roethlisberger saga earlier this offseason.
Rooney joined ESPN Radio in Pittsburgh to talk about what it’s been like not being right there in the mix with players and coaches at training camp, the induction of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to the Hall of Fame, what he remembers about LeBeau during his playing days as a defensive back for the Detroit Lions, the incredible success he’s had hiring the right people for the job in Pittsburgh and what he’s looking for in individuals during the interview process, why he and the organization felt it was the right thing to do to give Ben Roethlisberger a chance to redeem himself, the potential labor strife on the horizon, and his experience as the United States ambassador to Ireland, including his interactions with and impressions of President Obama as part of the job.
On him not being at Steelers training camp like he usually is joking and mixing it up with guys like Casey Hampton and Ike Taylor:
“Well it isn’t. I miss it really. This is the one thing that…well I miss the games probably the most, but I do miss coming up here. Yesterday was the first chance that I had to be up here. I did go over and see Case[y] [Hampton]. And he was more serious than he usually is. But Ike, he was flowing around, he was giving me the business.”
On the recently inducted Dick LeBeau and what he remembers of him as a player back in the day for the Detroit Lions:
“Well he was definitely the best at his time. He was the best defensive back in football. The stats showed it, and he played extremely well with enthusiasm. He was just a terrific guy. He really deserves to get into the Hall of Fame as a player. You add on him being a coach and how well he’s done there, that adds to it. But he definitely deserves to be there as a player.”
On LeBeau’s innovations as a defensive coach, namely the zone blitz which he contributed to the game:
“Well they’ve seen as you say evolve how defense is played, and he’s been so influential in the change in defense and that goes all the way back to the beginning. He was just great. He’s a great guy and I’m just really pleased and happy with him going in.”
On his remarkable string of success hiring coaches and staff and what it is he’s looking for during the hiring process:
“Well you definitely try to find out if they’re good people. I think that you win…Mike knows this just from what we represent and what we try to do – . Every season there’s going to be tough times, and you’re going to have ups and downs. And I’m talking about when you’re having a down, you need people to stand up and say hey we’re going to get this straightened out and we’re going to be okay. That’s why I think having the right people means so much. Besides having good players…you’ve got to have guys that can play the game, of course. But the kind of person they are has a lot to do with it”
On the decision for the Steelers organization to give Big Ben another chance to redeem himself:
“Well I thought that Ben deserved the chances that he got, and that we’d see how he reacted, and he’s reacted tremendously. I mean he’s done everything that he’s been asked to do; he’s been in there being diligent; and he’s had great attitude – his attitude’s been better than it was before. So, I think it came off.”
On what the first feeling is when he learns about news like Roethlisberger’s:
“Well you’re disappointed. That’s the biggest thing. you’re disappointed that it happened. But as you described, it’s one of those things where you’ve got to get the information. You just can’t make a rush to judgment and say this guy did this, or this guy did that. He was never charged, he did a lot of things like that…So I just thought it was the right thing to do.”
On if he thinks the owners and players union will be able to resolve their issues in time to get a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place for the 2011 season:
“Number one, I sure hope so. The commissioner came up here and he talked to the fans which I thought was a great move. He was asked that question and he said that our job is to try to get an an agreement, our job is to get people on the same side so they can operate properly, and that we get it all worked out. He said that it’s going to be a tough job. And that’s what we should do. That’s the way I look at it.”
On the similarities and differences between being an ambassador and running a football team:
“Well there’s some similarities, but it’s a different situation. You’re going constantly as an ambassador; there’s no off time. And it’s like a running a football team in that anything can happen at any point. And my job as an ambassador is to be there and do what should be done. If I have to talk to the Irish government, I do that. If I have to report to the State Department, I do that. I do report to the President once in awhile.”
On his impressions of President Obama:
I think he’s a magnificent person. He’s great. I know this from having been in Europe and places like that – he’s so well respected and loved in these other countries. It’s hard for him with some of the other problems that he’s been given here. But he’s just a hard working, knows what he’s doing, he does it right – he gets the information as I was saying before on the other subject – and he finds out. Like for instance, as far as the war is concerned, he finds out the information, he talks to the generals, he finds out what should happened. He’s passed a health bill, he’s passed a jobs bill, he’s been on the job, he does everything that’s asked of him. And he’s a decent guy, he is a man with a lot of integrity and he’s a good person. And that’s what we’re talking about.”
Listen here to Rooney on ESPN Radio Pittsburgh on the Drive w/ Paulsen, Logan, and Crow.