PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – Tuesday was a somber day as Pittsburgh said goodbye to a man who was the heart and soul of the Steelers and the city itself.
Humble and down to earth, Dan Rooney lived his life with dignity and grace. Always striving to do the right thing by others, he was a great friend to the people of Pittsburgh.
His legacy will be the incredible impact he leaves both on and off the football field.
KDKA’s Lynne Hayes-Freeland Reports:
The 90-minute funeral service offered a glimpse into a man who turned a moribund franchise into a dynasty; helped refine the vision of the modern NFL; and attempted to ease regional tensions as U.S. ambassador to Ireland. All the while remaining the guy from Pittsburgh’s North Side neighborhood simply known as “Dan.”
Dignitaries, current and former Steelers players, NFL owners and countless more friends and family attended the funeral Mass at Saint Paul Cathedral in Oakland.
Notable dignitaries in attendance included former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, former Secretary of State John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry, former Attorney General Eric Holder, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue.
Dan Rooney embodied everything I was raised to believe being Irish meant – generosity, decency, warmth, dignity & a truly genuine spirit.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) April 18, 2017
Some of the hundreds of current and ex-players included Hall of Famers Joe Greene and Franco Harris to current stars Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown to alums whose careers were far more modest – that Rooney treated as surrogate sons and grandsons.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl was the officiant for the Mass.
“I think there is a foundation to his life that was profoundly spiritual. He was a man of faith and as a result, he was a man of conviction, and he didn’t need to be the center of attention and he didn’t need to be loud. He just needed to get things done and he did. But, he was a man of the people. There was a goodness about him, a simplicity, that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t very, very capable,” Cardinal Wuerl said.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan Reports:
Cardinal Wuerl’s relationship with Rooney goes back 50 years.
“He was just getting started in [his] football career and I was just a newly-ordained priest. I cherished that friendship because it was just one more connection with the great rootedness here in Pittsburgh,” Cardinal Wuerl said.
Cardinal Wuerl said Mr. Rooney was a reflection of Pittsburgh and that one of things that was endearing about him was how he was always down to earth.
“He just never lost that common touch and I think that was one of the things that endeared him to so many people but he also worked hard on behalf of his community,” said Wuerl.
Ike Taylor served as one of the pallbearers along with members of the Rooney family.
Taylor grew up in Louisiana, the black son of a single mother. He never stepped foot in Pittsburgh until the team selected him in the fourth round of the 2003 draft. That didn’t stop Taylor from developing a deep relationship with the man he called “Pops.”
Their friendship stood as a symbol for Rooney’s uncanny ability to see across boundaries and generations. And it’s what made Art II’s choice of the final thought in honor of a man who meant so many different things to so many different people so fitting.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,” Art II said while reading the seventh beatitude, “for they shall be called the children of God.”
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan Reports:
On Monday, hundreds of people attended a public viewing at Heinz Field.
While many didn’t know Rooney personally, they said they felt they needed to attend the viewing.
“Mr. Rooney, even though I never met him in person, is part of our hearts,” Janet Beitler said. “It’s pretty emotional.”
“It’s about giving respect to one of the greatest men that ever stepped foot not only in the stadium, but in the whole City of Pittsburgh. He’s given so much,” Paul Ungerman said.
Gov. Tom Wolf tells the “KDKA Morning News” one of the reasons for the big turnout was Mr. Rooney’s connection to his team.
“He visited the locker room after every [Steelers] game and to him the players and the staff were family so in going through Heinz Field yesterday, the sense of grief and loss was shared by people all over the place,” said Wolf.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)