Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney died Thursday. Rooney, the son of team founder Art Rooney and controlling owner of the franchise since 1988, is probably best known for the personal letter he sent a Seattle Seahawks fan in February, 2006, on team letterhead with copies sent to commissioner Paul Tagliabue, insisting the Steelers won Super Bowl XL fair and square.
According to a post by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio in 2009, the letter surfaced three years later in an auction on the web site eBay.com. Although the letter’s provenance was never officially confirmed, Rooney entered into Seattle lore as a sore and smug millionaire trampling on the heartbroken: “You are something special,” Rooney wrote in the cover letter. “You ... now know more than anyone else in America on what was wrong with the officiating. You review the plays from your own prejudice. Did you look at what was happening?”
The content of the instigating letter from the Seahawks-fan point of view has never been reported, but presumably Rooney was referring to descriptions of well-documented refereeing irregularities from that playoff final. Rooney went on to complain about Seattle getting away with holding Pittsburgh nose tackle Casey Hampton “on every play.” After ending the letter with allowanaces of respect for owner Paul Allen and “the Seahawk organization”, Rooney enclosed a list of “20 reasons the Steelers won.”
In addition to the unhinged and imperious letter, you may also remember Rooney for helping steward Pittsburgh to five other Super Bowl trophies, for negotiating the NFL’s collective bargaining truce in 1982, for initiating the diversity hiring project informally named in his honor, the Rooney Rule, and for serving as United States ambassador to Ireland from 2009-2012.