PITTSBURGH (KDKA)–It’s a documentary on four NFL women owners, and while Virginia Halas McCaskey of the Bears, Martha Firestone Ford of the Lions and Norma Hunt of the Chiefs might be a tad envious of owner Pat Rooney, the wife of the late Steelers President Dan Rooney says they were once the objects of scorn who drove the official team car of a chronically losing football team.
“Drove around town, dropped the kids off at school. My daughter’s in the film and she says they got booed and told to get going,” she said.
But when the steel mills closed and hard times hit, it was the Steelers who lifted the region’s spirits with their legendary Super Bowl runs of the late 70s.
“We were so lucky with the teams of the 70s. We not only did they have great talent, they were good people,” Rooney said.
“They were such good kids. They were so young but they were kind to each other and kind to everyone else.”
The team and the city became one and that’s why when the NFL demanded his racetrack-owning brothers divest of the team, Dan Rooney took on investor-partners but kept the team under family ownership.
It’s a proud and multi-generational tradition and Mrs. Rooney believes that by keeping them family-owned the Steelers will always be a Pittsburgh team.
“There’s still something valuable about talking to my son Art, who came under the vision of his dad, who came under his dad’s outlook,” Rooney said.
“You’re carrying on a tradition?” asked KDKA reporter Andy Sheehan.
“Carrying on a tradition. Protecting the name and just proud to be from Pittsburgh.”
Pat Rooney was married to Dan for 67 years, raised a family of 9 children who have given her 19 grandchild and six great-children.
And while you could now call her the grande dame of Steelers Nation, she still sees herself as a Northsider born and bred, a fixture in the neighborhood — even spearheading a project to restore this fountain the Allegheny Commons.
“We were married here in our parish church St. Peter’s and had the reception behind us in the Knights of Columbus which was terrific,” said Rooney.
Odd as it sounds, the Rooneys always saw themselves as a working family like others in the neighborhood.
And while she and the other owner wives were rarely consulted on team or league business they held their families together while making their own quiet contributions.
“We got behind of course the initiatives to beat cancer and programs to help children and so it just came to be.”
And after Dan died in April of 2017, the team honored her after the first game for all of she had done.
“And it was presented to me after the game. and it was the first game ball I had ever received in all these years,” Rooney said.
“They gave me the game ball, and it was wonderful.”