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Steelers Art Rooney II replaces father as Steelers president

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

By Ed Bouchette, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Dan Rooney has passed the Steelers' torch to a new generation the same way his father passed it to him 28 years ago -- as quietly as possible.

Art Rooney II, right, speaks to a crowd at the Sen. John Heinz History center last Tuesday with his father, Dan Rooney, at left. (Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette)

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In keeping with family tradition, Art Rooney II has replaced his father as President of the Steelers and also will assume many of his duties running the ballclub. Dan has taken the title of Chairman of the Steelers, a designation held previously by his father, Art Sr., until his death in 1988.

"I just thought it was time," Dan Rooney said yesterday. "Art has been involved with a lot of the business of the team. He was very much involved in the building of Heinz Field.

"I'm still going to be here; it's not like I'm not going to be here. He's going to take on more of the tasks and things like that. I'll still do the community work and league work and things like that and still be available to do things here."

There was no announcement to note the change in leadership. It was discovered after media guides were distributed to news media yesterday.

A check of the club's directory on the second page revealed, in small type, the title changes beneath the names of Dan and Art Rooney II, his eldest son and previously the club's vice president and general counsel.

It's the same way reporters discovered in the summer of 1975 that Art Rooney Sr. had turned over the team's presidency to Dan.

There is no other mention of the change in the media guide, which also has no photos of Art II, 50, or his father, who turned 71 Sunday.

Dan Rooney, who has been working for the team since 1955, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000. His father, who founded the team in 1933, was inducted in 1964.

Neither Dan nor Art II sees any significant changes taking place in the operation of the franchise or its philosophy.

Art Rooney II has been the team's legal counsel for nearly two decades and one of its vice presidents for the past decade. He served as a Steelers ballboy in the 1960s and pursued a law career. He was managing general partner of the Downtown law firm of Klett Rooney Lieber & Schorling before he stepped down two years ago as his duties with the Steelers increased. He will remain with the firm but not on a full-time basis.

After U.S. Sen. John Heinz was killed in a plane/helicopter collision in 1991, Gov. Robert Casey wanted to appoint Art Rooney II to his seat. Rooney discussed it with Casey's political team of James Carville and Paul Begala before deciding not to pursue the opportunity.

Instead, he became president of the Steelers.

His father plans to spend as much time in the Steelers UPMC offices on the South Side as he always has. They will not switch their offices, which are side by side. Art Rooney also has an office at Heinz Field, where he spends much of his time.

Until his death, Art Rooney Sr. maintained an office at Three Rivers Stadium and showed up for work, where he suffered the stroke that took his life at age 87.

By the time Art Rooney Sr. turned the team's presidency over to his son, Dan had already been running the show unofficially for nearly a decade. He made most of the big decisions, including the hiring and firing of coaches. He was the one who hired Chuck Noll as coach in 1969.

"I have been much more active than my father was, so it will be a little bit different from that standpoint," Dan said. "I'll still be doing those things."

Dan Rooney recalled one piece of advice his father gave him when he turned some of the decisions over to him.

"He'd say go ahead and do what you want but don't make any mistakes," Dan said.

Art II gets a different vibe from his father.

"He has never said it, but I think my dad's philosophy always has been, go ahead and make a decision, but if it's wrong I certainly reserve the right to second-guess you."

Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3878.

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