PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – A public viewing was held at Heinz Field Monday afternoon for Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney.
The event was held from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday at the PNC Champions Club at the stadium.READ MORE: Snow-Covered Roads and Sidewalks Still An Issue In Some Pittsburgh Neighborhoods
Lines began to form outside the stadium around 11 a.m., and there was a steady stream of people throughout the day, filing past a closed casket draped with red roses. Leading up to the casket, there were floral arrangements from what appeared to be every team in the NFL.
The Rooney family personally greeted everyone who came through the line. Some knew Mr. Rooney personally, while others merely knew of the legend.
“He represents all of the Rooneys, including the chief,” former coach Paul Uram said. “He was one of the family, one of the coaches and one of the family. Once you’re a player or coach, you gotta be one of the family.”
Janet Beitler struggled to hold back tears as she relayed what Rooney meant to her.
“We are die-hard, love forever, bleed black and gold Steeler fans, Mr. Rooney, even though I never met him in person, is part of our hearts,” she said.
There was special entrance for players, coaches, elected officials and dignitaries. Mayor Peduto, Joe Greene and Bill Cowher were among those paying their respects.
“He would always send me notes form his house on the North Side or from his role as United States Ambassador to Ireland, and I think he put a lot of pride in the fact that we both came from the North Side,” said Former Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato.
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Kristen Veneski made a special trip here.
“I flew in last night. I’m a flight attendant and I traded in to this trip to come in to Pittsburgh, to come here, and pay my respects to Mr. Rooney,” Veneski said.READ MORE: Man Charged In Shots Fired Outside Waterworks Walmart
While she has to leave before the public viewing begins, she spent time at the stadium this morning.
“I’m taking a stroll around the stadium just to take it all in,” she said. “I didn’t know the man personally, but just to be here, I don’t know, for my soul.”
Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday ordered the Commonwealth flag to be flown at half-staff across Pennsylvania to honor Rooney, who died Thursday at 84.
“It’s a sad time in Pittsburgh for Steelers fans, Steeler nation, all over the world, it just feels like we’ve lost a big part of our soul and who we are,” Roethlisberger said, before noting that he would not be a Steeler if not for Mr. Rooney.
Many people in the sports world have commented that Dan Rooney was a “voice of reason” during league meetings.
Roethlisberger agreed, remarking that he had never heard Mr. Rooney raise his voice.
“Never seen him get angry, never seen him get upset, but you knew if he stood up and said something to you, you’d better listen. He wanted everybody’s else’s best interest first, it was always about the team, the fans, the NFL, this organization, it was always someone else before himself,” he said.
Rooney’s funeral Mass will be Tuesday at 11 a.m. at St. Paul Cathedral in the city’s Oakland section.
The family is asking that memorial contributions be made to Rooney’s alma mater, Duquesne University, or the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Rooney is survived by his wife, Patricia, and seven of the couple’s nine children.Pittsburgh Civil Rights Icon Alma Speed Fox Dies
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)