The Steelers’ way of doing business hasn’t changed under Art Rooney II

The Mike Tomlin interview he did recently on the Pivot Podcast, hosted by former NFL players Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder and Fred Taylor, sure was a treasure trove of information and personality from the usually elusive Steelers head coach, right?

Maybe it’s because Tomlin is now good friends with Clark, his former player. Maybe because Tomlin hosted the podcast team in his own home. Maybe it’s because Tomlin and the boys were drinking Happy Dad, a hard seltzer that’s apparently good enough for alpha head coaches and former football players, but Tomlin sure let his hair down during this interview.

There were a lot of interesting nuggets and insights found in this 90-minute treat, some of which I may touch on in future articles (training camp is in three weeks), but I want to use this space to focus on one particular bit of the chat on Tomlin: The way the Steelers apparently still do business.

Fans have always had this vision of the Steelers as an organization that is very affordable from an ownership perspective. Growing up, I heard stories of how one could walk right into team headquarters at the old Three Rivers Stadium and find the boss, Art Rooney, holding the door open for them. He will ask you about your family. He would treat you as if you were one of his best friends. On the business side of things, it was reported that during Joe Greene’s absence as a rookie in 1969, the Chiefs, growing tired of the stalemate, told the negotiators, “Just give it to him.” The same kind of approach, both from a personal and business standpoint, was taken by Dan Rooney, Art’s son and successor as both team president and majority owner. Granted, Dan was a bit more corporate than his father, but he still liked to roll up his sleeves and go to work. He still had that folksy personality. He still had the same human attitude as his legendary and likeable father.

You don’t often hear the same things being said about Art Rooney II, Dan’s son, the boss’s grandson and the man who has taken over as team president since 2003. From what one can gather by reading articles and listening to Steelers insiders over the past two decades, Art II seems more corporate and less folksy. It’s more “suit” and less “roll up your sleeves and go to work.” It’s less “come on over” and more “let me check my schedule.”

We got to know Art II a little better as he became more visible and vocal over the years. He held press conferences with the media. He was doing interviews. He was on stage with his father accepting the Steelers’ fifth and sixth Lombardi Trophies.

But how would things be once Rooney actually took the reins as majority owner of the team, which he did following the death of his father in 2017?

It’s hard to tell what Art II is like when it comes to interpersonal relationships, but he’s clearly very accessible to the people who work for him, including Tomlin. Just like his grandfather and father, all you have to do is walk straight down the hall to ask him a question.

During his interview with the Pivot Podcast, here’s how Tomlin said he approached Rooney about hiring Brian Flores, a man who was looking for a head coaching job and had just filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the entire NFL.

“He was like, ‘Great,'” Tomlin said of Rooney’s reaction after walking into his office and explaining that he suddenly had the opportunity to add this talented coach to his staff. “That’s the extent of the conversation. I told Flo, give me 24 hours. But I think I called them back about 45 minutes later. I didn’t want to miss out. I didn’t have a vacancy for a coordinator. I thought someone else might have something more appealing, so I wanted to move with some speed. Forget its title, what it says on the business card. Football coach – with us.”

It looks so informal. You just walk down the hall and ask your billionaire boss if you can hire someone, and he says, “Great,” and nothing more has to happen. There’s no real concern about Flores’ title or the fact that he’s willing to engage in an ugly legal battle with the NFL — including the man who will now be signing his checks.

Channing Crowder, in particular, seemed amazed that this was how Tomlin was able to approach his boss about hiring someone. Obviously, this ownership/coach dynamic is not the norm for most NFL franchises.

I don’t know if we’ll ever hear stories of Art II pulling pranks on players decades his junior. I don’t know if he’ll ever grow into the same cute figure as his grandfather and father (he’s about to turn 70 though, so he’s getting close to the age where these things start to happen), but it’s good to know he’s still you can walk into your office and do business the old Steeler way.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.