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Art Rooney II Says He’s A Hands-Off Owner

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Oh what a tangled web we weave…

The Pittsburgh Steelers have long been associated with doing things “the right way.” In fact, the “right way” has frequently been referred to as the Steeler Way. Some have even dubbed it the Rooney Way. Seeing as no franchise has experienced more success than the Black and Gold, it’s a credit both management and ownership richly deserve.

However, this off-season has been a bit perplexing. Heck, the past year has been weird. From devising devious gimmicks in order to circumnavigate the NFL’s concussion policy to team president Art Rooney II dictating the firing of Bruce Arians then lying by claiming he retired, the Steelers have been behaving very un-Steelerlike. Now that even the most diehard Yinzer has started to wonder what the hell they’re doing, Deuce Rooney took to his unofficial PR staff aka the local newspapers in order to do a little damage control. The result of his interviews with the Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review only serve to paint him as more of a weasel than initially thought.

The most telling bit is how Rooney deliberately parsed his words to avoid being called a liar somewhere down the line. In both articles, he stresses several times that Mike Tomlin made the call to hire Todd Haley as the team’s new offensive coordinator. That’s all well and good except Deuce is either the densest man alive or doesn’t realize that’s only HALF of the question. The other half was who fired Arians in the first place?

Not that the toadying media bothered to press him on that question. Or even ask it from what I could tell. Two page press release article in the PG and it’s not mentioned once. In the Trib, Rooney does say “Mike picks his staff,” which I guess can be applied to both the firing of BA and hiring of Haley. But it’s not specifically addressed and from the context of the quote, it sounds as if he was referring specifically to the perception that Haley was brought in at Rooney’s request.

The PG does their usual job of being vague and non-confrontational enough to protect against any appearance that they’re being critical of their Black and Gold overlords. The Trib, to their credit, seems to have asked the Deuce more pointed questions. Some of his answers were certainly eye-brow raising to say the least.

“My father and I always felt like we’re going to be hands-on, involved in the important decisions that are made, and we’ve felt like that for some time.”

Um, to my knowledge Dan Rooney interfered with his head coach exactly one time, towards the end of Chuck Noll’s tenure when the team suffered through a series of embarrassingly bad seasons and Ambassador Rooney basically played the heavy in insisting the Emperor part with some long-time assistants. Over the 15 years Bill Cowher was here, I don’t recall Mr. Rooney once getting involved with his staff or dictating a game plan. So where Rooney the Younger gets this idea his father was a “hands-on” owner, I have no idea.

“I think the fans appreciate the fact that the Rooneys are present and involved and have a history of that. Let’s put it this way: When I hear from fans I never get the complaint, ‘Hey, you’re too involved.’ ”

What the hell do you expect fans to say? Gimme a break. For one, the Rooney name is considered almost a Holy word here in Western Pennsylvania. There’s a freakin’ statue of the Chief outside the stadium. How many owners would have a statue erected? Okay, most of them would but I’m pretty sure a statue of Jerry Jones would be used more for target practice than respectful photography.

If a Steeler fan meets you on the street, of course he’s gonna shake you’re hand and tell you how great you are. That’s what fans do. Especially fans that are as utterly obsessive as those in Steeler Nation. Let me put it this way, don’t confuse our diehard loyalty to the Black and Gold for some overwhelming love for yourself. Your grandfather earned it. Your father earned it. You, sir, may get it by virtue of sharing their last name but don’t think that you’ve earned it.

“In certain cases, it’s a tough call. I try to be judicious in how often I comment on things because there’s only a limited amount of time that fans expect the owner to be making comments. I don’t have a weekly radio show. But I think it’s a judgment call. In this current day and age, there is more demand for it, more of an appetite for it than in the past, but I still try to pick my spots.”

Wha? I’ve written a Steeler blog for going on five years now. I have never EVER heard one fan say, “I wish Mr. Rooney had his own talk show. I’d like to hear from him more often.”  You know what kind of owners have their own weekly talk shows? D-bags like Jones and Danny Snyder. Nobody wants to hear from you, Deuce.

“There are roles I don’t want to play. I don’t want to call plays. I don’t want to tell coaches what the game plan should be every week. I don’t want to tell (general manager Kevin Colbert) who to draft in the fifth round. There is a line you have to draw as an owner between providing knowledgeable input and that place where you can become a distraction.”

Oh well I’m sure it comes as great relief to Kevin Colbert that he has a free hand at picking in rounds 5-7. What about those first handful? And I’m sure Tomlin and company appreciate the fact you don’t have a Batphone in the owners box to call down plays to sidelines. How magnanimous. It’s like he expects us to be happy he’s not sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong in the first place. And when you start firing coordinators and telling the coaches you want the team to run the ball more and pass less, that IS interfering. I know I can’t be the only person who sees Rooney II put this offensive upheaval into motion? Your star quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, sees it. That’s why he wanted to meet YOU in person. Not coach Tomlin, not his new OC (who he still hasn’t met, by the by)… No, Ben wants to talk with the owner.

Wonder why that is? Oh I know, because YOU’RE THE ONE CALLING THE SHOTS. I realize the local media will buy whatever you’re selling. I realize even the fans to a certain extent will turn a blind eye to clear contradictions. But please don’t piss on our leg and tell us it’s raining. It’s very obvious you’ve taken a more “hands-on” approach than any of your esteemed forefathers, despite your protestations otherwise. Time will only tell if its change for the best.