Art Rooney II, the son and grandson of Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL owners, reserves the right to continue his family tradition of running the Steelers with a "hands-on" approach. That does not mean he handpicked head coach Mike Tomlin's new offensive coordinator, Todd Haley.
"I can`t say what people on the outside think, but (Tomlin) picks his staff," Rooney told the Tribune-Review.
Fans not willing to buy those words should remember which two men spoke at the news conference at which Haley was introduced last week, Rooney said. Those men: Tomlin and Haley.
"Mike picks his staff, like I said, so he should talk about it in public," Rooney said in a wide-ranging interview. "The head coach should do the talking in that situation, not the owner."
Rare public criticism has come the Steelers` way since the team`s surprising loss at Denver in the first round of the AFC playoffs last month. Many callers to talk radio shows have questioned Rooney`s role in the brief retirement of former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, the subsequent courtship and hiring of Haley, and Rooney's public critique of franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger, who still had not met with Haley days after the hiring, requested a one-on-one with Rooney, who did not say if that meeting had occurred. However, Rooney acknowledged chatting with an unnamed player in his office at the team`s South Side facility as Tomlin introduced Haley at that news conference.
Keeping an open door for players is one of the many aspects of Dan Rooney`s ownership philosophy that Art Rooney II intended to maintain as part of his style when he took over day-to-day operations from his father in 2009. The younger Rooney has been Steelers president since 2003.
"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," Rooney said. "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.` "
Rooney touched on other topics during his interview with the Trib:
>> On speaking publicly about team matters: "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. Mike introducing Todd is a good example of a spot when I didn`t need to talk. That was Mike`s hire."
>> On his specific role with the Steelers: "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."
>> On the Steelers` ownership structure and the nine-person board of directors, four of whom are not members of the Rooney family: "That`s been a significant change, and as far as I`m concerned one for the positive because it sets us up for the future. They`re really invested in our organization. They weren`t people expecting to make a lot of changes, they believed in what we are doing.
"(The board meetings are) an opportunity for some of the new owners to participate in the overall direction, whether that`s expanding Heinz Field or other investments. On the football side, it`s more of an information kind of situation and me answering questions. It`s a good group. They are interested, they create enthusiasm, and as far as I`m concerned they`ve brought a lot to the table.
"We have quarterly meetings, in person four times a year. If something comes up, we update in between. One is an owners meeting."