Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, who died Thursday at age 84, already was in the Pro Football Hall of Fame when a stroke of his leadership set the Steelers on the path to their fifth and sixth championships.
Head coach Bill Cowher and director of football operations Kevin Colbert were ready to draft Arkansas offensive tackle Shawn Andrews with the No. 11 pick in 2004.
When the Steelers were on the clock, however, Rooney talked about how he regretted the Steelers passing on Dan Marino in the 1983 draft.
“When our turn came, I couldn’t bear the thought of passing on another great quarterback prospect the way we had passed on Dan Marino in 1983, so I steered the conversation around to Roethlisberger. After some more talk, we came to a consensus and picked Roethlisberger,” Rooney said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Andrews went to the Eagles with the No. 16 pick, but injuries cut his career short and he was finished after the 2010 season.
Roethlisberger, meanwhile, guided the Steelers to victories in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII.
Rooney’s influence in drafting Roethlisberger wasn’t even his most history-changing moment. He took the reins of the franchise from his father, Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr., in the 1960s and hired Chuck Noll as head coach in 1969. Noll won four Super Bowls. The Steelers have had just three head coaches in the last 48 years, and all three have won at least one Super Bowl.
Rooney also was the guiding force behind the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate when hiring a head coach. The Steelers led by example in that regard. Mike Tomlin became the first black head coach in franchise history in 2007.
The Rooney Rule was another one of Rooney’s accomplishments that came after he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.
Rooney’s son, Art Rooney II, took over as team president in 2002. But Dan Rooney was still active in league matters and was regularly seen at the team facility through last season, and he passed on knowing that the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback he convinced the Steelers to draft plans to play for at least another year.