Roxanna Firehall interviews Dan Rooney

Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney gestures after his team beat the Arizona Cardinals to win the NFL's Super Bowl XLIII football game in Tampa, Florida, February 1, 2009. REUTERS/Pierre Ducharme (UNITED STATES)


Gadzooks, what a great headline. It didn’t happen, but what a great headline.

I blame Momma Rollett. (Little Darlin’ knows a little bit about getting blamed for my misguided forays).  Momma did her Hombre recycling thing last Wednesday and it gave me a crazy idea. What if I stumbled into an elevator and surprisingly, Dan Rooney was there and we were alone. . . But not for just ninety seconds.

So off I went, into my own reverie:

As fortune would have it, we rode three floors or so and the elevator froze up! Holy moly, stuck in an elevator with Dan Rooney. I reluctantly called for help—at Mr. Rooney’s insistence. The nice lady who answered told me help was on the way, but it would be at least an hour until we would be extricated. Wow. That’s what I thought. That’s probably not what Mr. Rooney was be thinking. But, wow!

Luckily for both of us, I happened to be carrying a fresh Primanti Bros. sandwich and a bottle of Jameson (Irish Whiskey, for the uninitiated).

It’s my dream. It could happen.

I offer Mr. Rooney a drink and half of my sandwich. He seemed grateful and accepted both, and so, we have a picnic. I tell him what a huge Steelers fan I am, how I bleed black and gold and how I think the Chief was the greatest man who ever lived. I think Mr. Rooney is warming up to me, but maybe it’s just the Jameson’s. Anyway, I start asking him a few questions.

Mr. Rooney, why didn’t the Steelers draft Dan Marino? This is similar to Hombre’s original response to the 90 second question back in 2011, but mine, having the benefit of Jameson and Mr. Rooney’s predicament, is more direct. I’d love to know why.

I mean, jeez, Bradshaw had just retired. The QBs were Mark Malone and Cliff Stoudt. Really, I’d just like to know what the thinking was in the draft room was to pass on Marino. Was Gabe Rivera thought to be that good? Did anybody champion Marino as the right pick?  Were there perceived issues with Marino? (I’m all for fiction, but I can’t even dream of what Mr. Rooney’s answer would be, especially after several Jameson’s).

Well, it’s getting close to an hour and no word from our rescuers, so I say “Mr. Rooney . . .” He says, “please call me Dan.” Wow. “Okay, Dan, can I ask you, what was the thinking with Mike Vick. I mean, beyond the dog stuff, geez, he was done, kaput. He was not going to work out as the Steelers’ quarterback in a million years. Am I missing something?” I would really love to hear his answer to this.  Again, I cannot conceive. . . .

Well, we still weren’t rescued, and the maintenance said it would be another half hour before they could extricate us. Dan groaned, though being a gracious man, he tried to suppress it. He asked me for another Jameson’s—a double. I cheerfully obliged, and said, “Hey, Danny, what about Benny? He got in all that trouble down in Georgia. Did you ever consider sacking him? Did you ever in your WILDEST dream think that he would grow into the man he has become? If you did, how did you know? He was such a schmuck back then.”

I’m sure Dan would be forthright. Or maybe not so much, but it would be one hell of a conversation. I myself am amazed and thrilled with Ben’s growth, as I wrote a while back. With a few exceptions, the Rooneys have been astute judges of character and ability over the past 45 years or so. I wonder if they’re sure of their decisions or whether they have their doubts and it all works out. In any event, it’s uncanny.

Well, we’re still waiting and Dan, much too polite to ask me nicely to shut up, allows me to ask another question. “Danny, boy, what are the plans for this year’s draft? I understand best player available, but is that like a real thing? You’re not really going to draft another LB, QB or RB in the first round are you? Don’t you target some positions? Tell me how it’s really done. Who has the most input, you, Artie, Colbert, Coach?

I think a frank truthful response to those questions would be fascinating. Jameson’s is a remarkable truth serum.

The nice lady told us that the maintenance people would have us sprung in about ten minutes. Dan rolled his eyes when he thought I was looking away. “Hey Mr. Dan, what was the deal with Arians and LeBeau? Who was the prime mover in nudging them out. What was the thinking with both cases?”

Obviously, things worked out pretty well for everyone. BA is a head coach. Coach Dad is the Defensive Coordinator in Tennessee. The Steelers seem happy with Keith Butler and Todd Haley. Again, even in my dreams I don’t know the answer.

Finally, the elevator doors opened. Dan Rooney let out a huge sigh of relief. He looked exhausted. As I packed up our picnic, Dan looked over his shoulder and said, “Lad, can I ask you a question?” I said, “sure, old buddy!”

“Roxanna Firehall can’t be your real name. What’s the origin?”

“Sorry, Dan. It’s something I just don’t discuss.”



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