For about 40 years, the Steelers were the worst major professional sports team in North American history.

That was due in no small part to the fact that Art Rooney hired his friends and relatives and was too nice of a guy.

The statue of him that sits outside Heinz Field has nothing to do with winning and everything to do with being a nice guy. I’ve always said that that is what makes his statue the most impressive.

It wasn’t until his son Dan took over that they started to win.

When Chuck Noll retired, the search for his replacement came down to two guys –one from Crafton an one from Baldwin.

When it came time to hire a GM, the job went to a guy from Mt. Lebanon, who was a former training camp ball boy and the grandson of one of Art Rooney’s good friend, David L. Lawrence, former mayor of Pittsburgh and governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Donahoe.

He helped them get to a Super Bowl in three years and oversaw a personnel department that drafted and/or traded for three or four Hall of Fame caliber players who helped the Steelers win another Super Bowl.

When Donahoe was fired, he was replaced by a guy who went to North Catholic High School –Dan Rooney’s alma mater.

The Rooney’s like Pittsburgh guys and they like to hire people they have known.

This is just a theory and it’s based on no inside informaion:

Art Rooney II was not happy with Bruce Arians anymore and was thinking about making a change.

Todd Haley gets fired as head coach in Kansas City and the word gets around the league that he was working under impossible conditions and got the shaft.

Rooney remembers Haley as a kid and he has a friendship with Haley’s father, Dick, who played a major role in the dynasty of the 70s as personnel director.

He decides to give the old ball boy a chance and that’s when he decides to “retire” Bruce Arians, who had been told by the head coach that he would be back next year.

This is the old Rooney cronyism at work. And that’s not a criticism.

Since 1970, cronyism has helped make the Steelers the most successful franchise in the NFL

  • sherm

    Russ Grimm was a western Pa guy and steeler assistant and was passed over for tomlin. Maybe the rooney rule had some influence. Maybe thats why Omar Khan decided to stay with the steelers. His history with the organization may go back wayback. Omar is a behind the scenes negotiator and salary cap manager.

  • Erik

    John and Bobzilla What do you think is going to happen to Hines? do you think they should let him go?

    • http://justwatchthegame.com John Steigerwald

      I have a feeling he’ll be in somebody else’s training camp next year. I hope it’s the Ravens’.

    • Bobzilla

      According everyone but the NFL Network, the Steelers have yet to make a decision. Hines Ward is a cold-blooded competitor who is going to exit football on his own terms. He says he’s willing to restructure his contract. That might not be enough. But perhaps Haley has plans for him that Arians didn’t.
      I think he should retire.
      But I don’t think he will.

  • Bobzilla

    John: What do you make of KDKA-FM’s ’round-the-clock, media-made feud between Roethlisberger and Haley; and Rooney II and Tomlin? I’m sure you know the storylines: Rooney II forced Tomlin to hire Haley, while Haley has yet to introduce himself to the “100 million dollar quarterback.”
    When introducing Haley to the media, Tomlin didn’t sound like a coach who had been “forced” to do anything. As for Haley’s alleged snub of the greatest quarterback on the planet: Boooo-hooo.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com John Steigerwald

      It’s nauseating and it’s a result of their approach to talk radio. Instead of getting interesting guests or debating interesting topics, they try to goad moronic fans into calling by creating controversy. I said on my talk show yesterday that Ben needs to shut up and play. And I spent a half hour talking to Kostya Kennedy of Sports Illustrated. I’ve taken one phone call in a year and we have a pretty good audience now.

      • Bobzilla

        I agree wholeheartedly…
        I only listen to KDKA-FM while driving around, and yesterday Ron Cook spent much of his show sulking and pouting because many listeners were calling to tell him to get over it; Arians is gone; and that Roethlisberger, regardless of his excessive salary, doesn’t own or run the team. It was good to hear that not all of his listeners are “moronic fans.”

        • http://justwatchthegame.com John Steigerwald

          Not all of his listeners are moronic fans. Nor are his callers. It’s just that when you do talk radio the way they do it, you’re a magnet for morons and they drag the show down.

  • Haas

    The Steeler defense is getting (has gotten?) old and it is looking like the Steel Curtain of 1980-81…still good but not what it used to be. The offensive line has holes in it and the QB is going to get smeared. What Pittsburgh needs to do is get its O-Line fixed up and get back to running the ball (with some deep strikes to Wallace) to chew up the clock and keep the rebuilding defense off the field. It also keeps the other team’s offense off the field as the new guys on defense get some work.

  • DavidMcGwire

    I have a friend who’s a college offensive coordinator…and I’d venture to guess that 95% of football personnel hires are a result of cronyism.

    Rarely, if ever , does a football coach get hired if they don’t have someone internal vouching for them.

  • saneman

    I was reading about the whole Unitas saga. If Art Rooney overruled his coach Walt Keisling(Hall of famer) and went with his own sons advice, Johnny Unitas would have become a Steeler for life instead of the cameo he got in training camp. Instead Art Rooney made it clear to his son that the coach knows better what’s good for his team. So , I am on board this idea that Rooney has every right to overrule Tomlin. One doesn’t have to be a Daniel Snyder type to be concerned about your franchise and there are times when an owner must step in for some course correction.

  • Forbes St. Clair

    Not sure what to think of the hire. I think he is a good offensive mind, but his attitude with the players will go over like a fart in Church with Ben. In Ben’s world, he is the world. This will shake up the offense, I am curious to see how it shakes out.

  • Parker39

    Wow, that is some very insightful observation, only one with a keen understanding of Pittsburgh sports in general and the Steelers in particular could have put all those pieces together. I can’t find any fault in your reasoning and I hope Haley does well but I am a bit concerned that the Steelers are looking to get away from their bread and butter (tough defense against the run, countered with a strong running game on offense). For all the passing and records set this year it was still a team with bruising running backs who could get the tough yards when needed that won the Super Bowl.

    Again, great observation John……stick to sports instead of politics so we can agree more! LOL

  • OhHenry

    Actually franchise quarterbacks are the reason this team is successful.

    Bradshaw won four.

    No franchise QB for 20 years and won none.

    Ben has won two in 8 years.

    You may get your wish John, this “situation” has $60 million [Ben’s contract] salary dump written all over it.

    • Bobzilla

      OhHenry: Spoken like a true casual fan.
      The offense, under Roethlisberger’s guidence, has never been anything special, while the defense has been ranked at or near the top in nearly every statisical category under LeBeau, yet you are willing to credit only the quarterback for the successful seasons, including two Super Bowls wins, one of which featured a quarterback with the lowest passer rating in Super Bowl history…
      Yeah. That makes sense.

      • saneman

        Steelers wouldnt ahve won SB 40 without Ben because under a Neil O Donnel type they would have lost to Indy.

        • Bobzilla

          Roethlisberger played the absolute best three-game postseason I have ever seen by a quarteback in my 40 years of watching football. Here’s the problem: That was SIX seasons ago. Roethlisberger hasn’t been same QB since, starting with Super Bowl 40. His moments of “greatness” since then have been few and far between.
          Roethlisberger has squandered his potential to be the best quarterback in the league. And that bothers me. Obviously you and the masses aren’t as bothered as I am. However, we’ll see how bothered everyone is should the defense turn as ordinary as the offense has been over the years.

          • a-dawg

            Agreed – Ben has 2…3…maybe 4 big games a year. After that its 50/50 on a decent game or crappy game.

      • Bobzilla

        Here’s my facts: Roethlisberger’s passer rating was a whopping TWENTY-TWO. Hate to break the news to you, but THAT STINKS, ESPECIALLY for a WINNING quarterback…

        I’m not even going to discuss LeBeau’s defense with the likes of you.

    • Gary M


      Here are the “Rules According to Bobzilla”
      1. Thou shalt not attribute any success of the Steelers to Ben Roethlisberger.

      2. If thou shalt break rule 1, then thoust knowest nothing about football.

      3. Bobzilla only hast the right to quote statistics that supportest his opinion; All other statistics are meaningless.

      He’s rarely right, but always entertaining….

      • Bobzilla

        Gary M: Thanks for reading. But you are a typical “reader” in that you only pick out certain excerpts to remember. As great as the Steelers’ defenses have been over the years, Kordell Stewart would’ve had two, maybe three rings by now.
        No. 1 defenses are uncommon.
        No. 21 offenses are pretty common.
        If you have a dispute with that claim, so be it.

        • Gary M

          First, unless you have 100% recall, which no one does, ALL readers only remember certain passages. Even someone with your great mind.

          Secondly, No 1, No 21, those are season numbers and as the Giants and Patriots clearly showed, especially in their last match up, they don’t really matter all that much. It’s how your playing come playoff time. The Giants offense was indeed offensive to start the year, but not come playoff time.
          BOTH the Giants and Patriots had top 5 offenses and defenses in the post season this year. Giants (3, 3) Pats (5,5)

          • Bobzilla

            Come playoff time?
            That’s my point.
            There would have been no playoffs if the Steelers’ defense hadn’t been ranked No. 1 in the regular season. There would have been many seasons without the playoffs without that defense. In 2009, the Steelers’ defense slipped clear down to No. 5. Guess what? No playoffs.
            What’s with the snarky attitude, by the way?
            Your Big Benny has a new offensive coordinator who eats hot-shot players for breakfast? Is that what’s bothering you?
            Everything’s going to be OK.

        • Dr. Phibes

          No. 1 defenses that get shredded by Tim Tebow are uncommon too.

          • Bobzilla

            The Steelers’ quarterback had a Total Quarterback Rating of 25 ( that’s 25 out of 100), which was the lowest Total QBR of any quarterback of wildcard weekend.
            That loss was a team effort.

  • Mike from Boston

    Art Sr. was every bit as guilty of nepotism when the Steelers stunk to high heaven. It’s well documented that he sought local players, even if non-local players were available and better, because that scores points with the community.

    The difference is that, since Dan took over, the nepotism hires have been restricted to Steelers insiders who are also competent and competitive.

    Also I’d like to cite the creation of the Rooney Rule as a pretty big counterpoint to nepotism hires in more recent Steelers history.

  • Ric Ettinger

    It was sure curious when Arians “retired” and the Steelers went ahead and hired Haley. It was sure curious when the Steelers created the Rooney rule and hired Mike Tomlin.

  • Rich

    Their track record since hiring Chuck Noll has been pretty good. So I’m o.k. with them taking a shot with Haley. People really need to lighten up a bit and give the guy a chance.

  • Kansas City expat

    As my site name suggests, I am a former Pittsburgher living in Kansas City (with all Pittsburgh sports loyalties strongly intact). The situation regarding Haley’s departure here degenerated into a publicly aired feud between Haley and GM Scott Pioli which, among other things, included Haley asserting that his office and phone had been bugged by the organization, and a front-page KC Star article more or less suggesting rampant paranoia characterizing the work environement at Chiefs HQ. Very weird stuff.

    Interestingly, sports talk here is suggesting that the Steelers’ hire of Haley is in a way a repudiation of the Chiefs and their having fired him (e.g., well-run franchise hires Haley, validating him as coach).

    This much seems to be the case: Cassell floursihed under Charlie Weis as OC, not so much with Haley as de facto OC while still head coach. Haley is thought to be unflunchingly authoritarian. It has woked well with some players, not so much with others.

    One would suspect that the Steelers know what they are getting. The belief here is that the Todd/Ben relationship will be tempestuous. That, given Haley’s realtionships with Kurt Warner and then Cassel, seems likely…and likely known to the Steelers. All of which, of course, indicates they believe that is what will optimize Ben’s effectiveness.

    • Bobzilla

      What until the Chiefs get a full load of Romeo Crennell. They ain’t seen nothing yet.
      Haley took a pathetic Chiefs team and turned it into a division winner. This past season, the Chiefs were hit with a ton of injuries. As the Cardinals’ OC, he pieced together an offense that carried a defense that allowed 49 TDs in 2008 to a Super Bowl berth. That resume is far superior to Arians’ resume.
      By the way: When has Matt Cassell ever “flourished”? I must’ve blinked and missed seeing that 12-second highlight.

  • Kay

    Your theory doesn’t bother me all that much. These are business men, making business decisions. I would like nothing better than an all PA or Pittsburgh team, made up of Pitt and Penn State and WVU alum. We like to talk about how much talent we produce in our part of the world. What bothers me about your theory is, Mike Tomlin is reduced to a puppet who participates in the charade of looking for the best candidate when the choice was already made. I would hope that is not true.

  • Niblick

    I don’t know if the Rooney cronyism is a bad thing or not. But, what is funny is when Yinzer nation criticizes a Jerry Jones or a Mark Cuban for interfering with the team. Sounds like Rooney did the same thing here. The coaches should be the responsibility of the head coach not the ownership. Did Rooney usurp Tomlin’s position? Sounds like he did. How will that play out in the locker room?

  • a-dawg

    This is going to blow up in their face. But since it went down…here is what I’m thinking…..

    The D is old and needs to reload. With Arians going to Indy…they should have approached the Colts about trading for Ben. If the Colts would give up the overall #1 and their 3rd round pick, I’d jump all over it.

    Not knocking Ben – but this would give the Steelers a chance to reload at QB for the next 15 years…save cap space and give them a year or 2 to reload at D.

    Then when Luck is seasoned and ready….the team would be in solid position to make a championship run for several years.

    I’m sure I’ll get grilled in here…..but that’s OK. I’m no expert….and this is just something to chew on. I think it could work.

    • Tim

      Won’t work:

      1. Ben’s signing bonus money would all accelerate onto this year’s cap, causing even more cap headaches.
      2. The Steelers are built to win now.
      3. No guarantee that Luck is going to be a great QB.
      4. The Colts are in full rebuild mode themselves. If they were aiming at another championship within 2 or 3 years, they’d keep Peyton.

      • a-dawg

        @ Tim

        1. Sorry Charlie, Ben isn’t being released, he is being traded. No cap hit. In fact, the Steelers would gain cap space.
        2. Oh, ok….old D that will be 1 year older and a crappy O line. Good luck with that. You probably think Ward belongs in the HoF too.
        3. With your rational….there is no gaurantee that Ben won’t be accused of raping another woman in the offseason. Look at what all these young QBs have been doing since the NFL has turned into flag football. And before you reference Ryan Leaf….that was back before it was all O, all the time.
        4. Peyton is done…put a fork in him. He can hardly throw…aren’t you keeping up with the latest news? http://tracking.si.com/2012/02/09/report-peyton-manning-still-unable-to-make-most-throws/?sct=hp_t2_a7&eref=sihp

        Peyton is 36 and will never be close to what he was again…if he plays at all. Colts are dumping him…no ifs ands or buts. And I wouldn’t be surprised if some in the Colts front office don’t think they aren’t a solid QB away from competing for a championship + Arians would be all for it.

        • Dan

          Here’s my crazy impossible hope for how the Peyton Manning saga plays out as it would be endlessly entertaining.

          1.) Jerry Jones, at the end of his rope as his talented but underacheiving roster missing the playoffs yet again (this time in a win and you’re in situation), gives in to his ego and trades Tony Romo in the division to the Washington Redskins, who are equally desperate for anybody who can just give them a sense of competence at the QB position. In return all Jones asks for is draft picks, which he later uses to beef up his o-line, and with his newly acquired cap space rolls out the red carpet for the freshly cut free agent Peyton Manning.

          How great would that be? The biggest groupie of all-time in Jones signs his ultimate wet dream, bringing the NFL’s biggest star to it’s biggest stage to achieve the biggest goal. Peyton is happy because he gets an extremely favorable contract, a warm/indoor home stadium, plenty of talented toys to throw to at receiver and tight end, a good offensive line, a coach who will get out of the way and a chance to win the Super Bowl right away. The Dallas Cowboys would be must-see TV, love them or hate them.

        • Tim

          1. The huge signing bonus they paid him Ben in 2008 was to be allocated over the length of his contract. If he’s released or traded the unallocated part goes on this year’s cap.
          2. The Defense was #1 last year. Oline was good enough to have a 4000 yard passer and 2 1000 yard receivers
          3. The washout rate for 1st rd qbs is about 50%. I’d put Ben’s chances of being with a college girl in a seedy bathroom again significantly under that.
          4. they don’t play in February.

    • Chris

      The Colts would laugh in Colbert’s face at that proposal, and that’s not a knock on Ben at all.

    • Ken

      It would be a bold more for sure.

      I think it would be great image move for the team, actually living by their supposed “Steeler way,” in trading that lowlife. But purely in football terms, I think Roethlisberger, only about to turn 30, is too young to start thinking about replacing him. A QB’s best years are often at that age.

      Luck may look like a sure thing, but, there are no sure things.

      They can use the draft and possibly other moves to patch up their defense.

    • George Washington

      People loved Ryan Leaf as well – doesn’t always work out.

      Way to want to roll the dice & risk your known commodity, though!


    • Dr. Phibes

      The Colts are in the “blow the team up phase” and will be starting from scratch. I don’t think trading their first round pick and new frachise QB for a 30 year old QB with a lot of miles on him like Ben fits their rebuilding plan. Give the Colts 2-3 years to reload and by that time, Ben will be on his last legs. Wouldn’t make sense for the Colts to make that trade.

      Given what seems to be major holes in the Steelers line-up this offseason (weak O-Line, aging LB’s and a defensive line that is one half aging and one half not living up to their #1 draft pick status), this may be the time to do some free agent signing, as the draft will not answer all of these holes adequatly.

    • Dk

      Why not ask for next years 1 and 2 from the colts while you’re at it?

    • Parker39

      Ben is in his prime, elite NFL QB’s are rare, I wouldn’t trade him for the top two picks in the draft. Remember Ryan Leaf? he was taken #2 overall after Peyton Manning. The draft is still too much of a crap shoot to risk trading away a franchise QB. Just my opinion.

      • Bobzilla

        “Elite” quarterbacks don’t get their coordinators fired. “Elite” quarterbacks’ offenses don’t finish 21st in scoring. And “elite” quarterbacks don’t need the media to constantly remind everyone that they are “elite.”
        Roethlisberger is a good quarterback who has regressed over the years. Obviously, Rooney II is about to purge the team’s aging defense, and, with that in mind, he feels the need for the offense to start performing at a much higher level.
        Haley deserves the opportunity to see if he can make the team’s overrated quarterback and the offense better. That ship may have already sailed (via laziness under Arians), but Haley is worth a try. What’s the worst that can happen? The offense might not finish 21st in scoring?

        • http://justwatchthegame.com John Steigerwald

          All Haley has to do to improve on Arians is “win” 12 games, produce a 4,000 yard QB and two 1,000 yard receivers. And he only has to get the offense to two Super Bowls and win one of them. That’s all.

          • Bobzilla

            I see.
            So, should the Steelers magically start winning, or even losing, games by the scores of 34-33, that will be totally on Haley?

          • http://justwatchthegame.com John Steigerwald

            No. I put “win” in quotes. I’m saying that fans who wanted Arians run out of town should have been careful what they wished for. The Steelers, ranked 21st in scoring notwithstanding, had a 4,000 yard QB and two 1,000 yard receivers and won 12 games. Will Haley improve on that ? We’ll see. When Walt Harris was run out of town, I said that all his successor has to do in order to be an improvement is go to bowl games six years in a row ( I think that was the number) including losing a BCS bowl game in a blow out. Pitt’s still waiting for someone to do a better job than Harris did.

          • Bobzilla

            The Steelers won 12 games in spite of an offense that averaged a meager 20 points per game. I realize that most everyone blames the defense’s inability to return iturnovers for touchdowns for the offense’s awful output of points… But sometimes an offense has to, you know, score points on its own.
            Just for the record, Polamalu returned a forced fumble for the game-winning TD against the horrific Colts. I’d also like to point out that Roethlisberger threw for 330 yards in a 20-3 loss against the 49ers. Sorry, but points are more important than yards.
            I truly believe that the Steelers, as a whole, were closer to being an 8-8 team rather than a 12-4 team. Had tthe defense been ranked lower than No. 1, even 2 or 3, a losing record would not have been out of the question.
            With key defensive players about to be released, I think it’s vital for the offense to start performing like a real NFL offense. Roethlisberger may have to actually take his job a little more seriously. I’m sure Haley will be blamed if he doesn’t.

          • Dan

            What turnovers?

          • http://justwatchthegame.com John Steigerwald

            Roethlisberger may have peaked. I also have a theory about their inability to score TDs. Roethlisberger’s escapability and ability to keep plays alive becomes less effective in tight quarters. When he is scrambling around and the defenders have lots of room behind them, it’s much harder to keep the play in front of them. I realize that’s the case with every quarterback, but Roethlisberger thrives when the play breaks down. The closer he gets to the goal line, the less dangerous he becomes on the perimeter because the DBs can keep everything in front of them. They also don’t have a good running game (or back) to fall back on when they get close. That takes away play action. When was the last time Roethliusbeger threw a good fade pass from in tight? Brady, Rodgers,Brees and both Mannings are better at making quick decisions and throwing quick timing routes. The short field doesn’t effect their game as much.

          • Dan

            John I think your theory is 100% accurate.

          • Mike V

            The Steelers won 12 games because they played an easy schedule. When three teams in a division make the playoffs, it is a sign that the division had an easy schedule.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com John Steigerwald

            The Patriots beat no teams with a winning record until the playoffs.

          • Mike V

            Goes to show how important it is to be healthy come playoff time. Giants get healthy and win. Pats had injuries early. Steelers had a ton of injuries in their playoff game.

            Since the NFL has pretty much successfully eliminated dynasties, success or failure seems to come more and more from the weekly injury report. I don’t know if that is a good or a bad thing or even how to fix it if it is bad.

          • Parker39

            Yea Bobzilla, what John said!

          • Bobzilla

            I agree with everything said by John.
            But let’s be honest: The Steelers lack a big-time, deep threat. Sure they have Mike Wallace, but they also lack the ability to get him the ball, in full stride, for long, quick-strike TDs . That’s the reason Santonio Holmes has been so sorely missed. He’d turn dinks and dunks into big plays… and sometimes even for TDs.
            Don’t know how Haley feels about a fullback, but having one would go a long way in improving the running game.

          • Dan

            Look up the numbers and I bet Wallace had more big plays this year than Holmes had in any year. To say the Steelers lack a big-time deep threat is out of this world crazy. If Mike Wallace isn’t one then who is? How many 50+ yard touchdowns is he supposed to score each year? Each game? Is he supposed to do things no other receiver has ever done before we can call him a big time deep threat?

            Any coach in the NFL will tell you Wallace is as big-time as it gets when it comes to deep threats. Yet you’re sitting here saying he’s not. They lack the ability to get him the ball in stride? What? How else does he put up his numbers?

            You said let’s be honest, but what you meant was let’s get crazy.

          • Bobzilla

            How many NFL coaches have you talked with?
            Wallace has blazing speed.
            That’s a fact.
            Roethlisberger can’t throw an accurate deep ball.
            That’s a fact.
            I have eyes.
            I don’t need to talk with any NFL coach.
            But if you do, great.

        • Mike V

          The Steelers offense isn’t lazy, it isn’t physical and that is the problem.

    • jethro bodine


      Any chance was you hanging out with Justin tuck of the Giants, and did he give you a blue label bottle of that ( Johnnie walker ) to CHUG !

      your right !!!!!!!!! your not no expert.

      hey dog, lets trade away our wide receivers for draft picks too !

  • mark

    isn’t it cronyism when you hire friends and relatives?

    • http://justwatchthegame.com John Steigerwald

      Yep and it’s worked well for the Steelers since 1970.

      • mark

        but you lead off saying that nepotism did not work well for Art. or is Dan better at it?

        • http://justwatchthegame.com John Steigerwald


  • RuthenianCowboy

    For about 40 years, the Steelers were the worst major professional sports team in North American history.

    That was due in no small part to the fact that THE PIRATES HADN’T DESCENDED INTO IRRELAVENCE YET.

    Fixed that for you, John.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com John Steigerwald

      The Pirates are only half as bad as the Steelers were. They have 20 more years to go.

      • bald guy

        When it comes to consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates are #1.

        • http://justwatchthegame.com John Steigerwald

          Yep. But the Steelers went 40 years without winning ANYTHING.

  • Maynard G. Krebs

    Stiil, a hire that smells of nepotism. i wish him well, but if he fails God have mercy on him & Rooney.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com John Steigerwald

      It doesn’t jusy smell of nepotism. It is nepotism and it has served the Steelers well.

      • Maynard G. Krebs

        It’s like shooting craps John. Rooney has been on a hot roll with the local guys but he’s overdue to throw a seven.