A fitting tribute to Dan Rooney

The Steelers honored the legacy of late Chairman Dan Rooney prior to Sunday's game against the Vikings at Heinz Field, in a manner that befitted the legend he was, as well as the humble individual he was.

Heinz Field was respectfully quiet, and tears were visible among Steelers' fans, as a video was shown on the scoreboard, a touching tribute to the life Rooney led, and the impact he had on so many.

Throughout the regular season players will sport a patch on the right side of their jerseys with Rooney's initial's DMR, which stands for Daniel Milton Rooney, lovingly enveloped in a black and gold shamrock to honor, remember and show love and respect for the man who was more than an owner, but family to the players.

Prior to the game a flag was raised outside of Heinz Field at Gate A, with an image of the patch displayed on it. And fittingly it was raised by two players who had a close relationship with Rooney, Mel Blount and Rocky Bleier.

"As humble as Dan was, not ever looking for any accolades or pats on the back, or recognition of success, this is apropos because it involves the fans, game day, and the team, everything Dan was about," said Bleier. "To be able to be a part of this is a great honor. Dan played a big role in my life, as he probably did in a lot of player's lives. He has always been a friend of the players. He has also been engaged with the fans, understood how important the fans are to the team and the City of Pittsburgh. For Dan to be recognized on game day in front of all of the fans, it's apropos." 

Just as Rooney would have wanted, the mood picked up significantly when the Steelers were introduced to the home crowd for the first time in the regular season, and when Ben Roethlisberger ran out of the tunnel waving a flag with the DMR logo on it, the crowd erupted.

But the stadium feel silent when a moment of silence was held, the emotion evident on the faces of coaches, players and fans alike.

The Pittsburgh Symphony's Brass and Percussion Sections led the crowd in the National Anthem, and the fans joined in singing in one voice, a tribute to a man who represented his country as the United States Ambassador to Ireland. The anthem was followed by a flyover by the 13th Bomb Squadron.

Joe Greene and Franco Harris, two other players who had a close bond with Rooney, served as co-captains for the coin toss, wearing their game jerseys with the DMR patch adorned on them.  

"This was so special," said Greene. "To pay tribute to him on this day, the home opener, goes without saying. It's very appropriate. We all say this is a good thing to honor a great man. To bestow this kind of honor, remembrance on him, is special.

"I am so happy to be a part of it. From the day I signed my Steelers contract, he has been an important part of my family for all of those year. He was just there, all of the time. I never questioned any of his motives, anything he did, I knew his first thought was about the team, the city. He was such a man of integrity. He never did anything that wasn't about the love of this city, team, family, and obviously his Lord.

"When Dan invited me to be interviewed for the next head coach of the Steelers when Chuck Noll retired, I was honored. When he told me I wasn't going to be the next head coach, I was disappointed at the moment, but I knew he made the right decision. By the time I drove to my house, I was at peace with it and knew he made the decision based on sound thought process and I had no problem with that.

"He was such a special man. When he asked me to be his presenter at the Hall of Fame, you can count up to 20 people he could have had, and he chose me. I was deeply honored. I was nervous and afraid too. I wanted to say and do the right thing. He was special to me. He was really special to me. He was always there. I hold him in high regard. I always had so much respect for him."

Blount and Bleier, along with Rooney's North Catholic High School teammate Dave Winter, wearing a North Catholic jersey with Rooney and the No. 33 on it, led the fans in the Terrible Towel twirl. The group was also joined by Dwayne Woodruff, Shaun Suisham and Brett Keisel, who were all taking part in pregame autograph signings for fans.

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