'The Chief' was like no other

  • The Steelers currently have 22 former players, coaches or contributors in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and that number will increase to 23 later this summer when Jerome Bettis is inducted as a member of the Class of 2015. In advance of his induction Steelers.com will share the stories of the 22 Steelers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

*Art Rooney Sr.
Founder, President, Chairman of the Board (1933-88)
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: 1964

He wasn't the first in the Steelers organization to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and that is just how Art Rooney Sr. would have wanted it.

Check out photos of Steelers' Hall of Famer Art Rooney Sr.

In his mind, the players and coaches always came first, and Rooney would happily remain in the background, giving credit to those around him.

Even when the Steelers won Super Bowl IX, their first of four after 40 years of fighting for a championship, the man affectionately known as 'The Chief,' didn't even want to be in the spotlight.

"I made him come up on the stage," recalled linebacker Andy Russell. "He was standing in the background like an onlooker. I told him 'Chief come up, it's your team.' He came up and we all hugged him. It was a great moment.

"It was very sweet. He was such an amazing guy. He would come out rain or snow and be out there watching practice. He would be right out there in the cold with us. After practice he would be in locker room talking to players. It was like a family and he was the best."

Rooney exemplified what the Pittsburgh Steelers were about from the time he founded the organization on July 8, 1933 and throughout the glory years of the 1970s when the team won four Super Bowl championships.

"The highlight from Super Bowl IX was watching 'The Chief' get the trophy," said former safety Mike Wagner. "He was known as the good guy owner, a wonderful man. He would try and touch every player in a personal way. He always had something good to say, he was interested in you. We knew the number of years the team had been a loser. The move to bring Dan (Rooney) in and let him run the day to day business and to hire Chuck (Noll) was great.

"But at the end of the day it was all about 'The Chief', it was his dream, his vision."

Rooney was a driving force behind the NFL-AFL merger, and kept the Steelers franchise viable during the depression, World War II and other tough times, even merging with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1943 and Chicago Cardinals in 1944 during the war.

"He was a man who belonged to the entire world of sports,'" said former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. "It is questionable whether any sports figure was more universally loved and respected."

Rooney, who was presented for his Hall of Fame induction by former Pennsylvania Governor David Lawrence, handled his day in Canton with the same grace and humble approach he handled everything in life.

"I am indebted and grateful to the men that chose me for this great honor," said Rooney. "To the people of Pittsburgh and all the sports fans everywhere, I owe my thanks. To the men in cities and towns that pioneered professional football, both promoters and players alike that will never receive this honor, all of us who are a part of the game today are indebted and owe our thanks. May God bless and keep them."

Art Rooney Sr. died on Aug. 25, 1988 at the age of 87.

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