Art Rooney II gambling his reputation that change will result in Steelers success

Art Rooney II has a bold vision of improving the Steelers, but will it pay dividends in the long run?
Nov 13, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Art Rooney II gestures on
Nov 13, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Art Rooney II gestures on / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Amongst NFL Owners, Dan Rooney was a giant. Art Rooney II probably took more after his grandfather. Art Rooney Sr. never had a successful team until the 1970s; however, he was a beloved City and NFL owner. It was Dan Rooney who built the team by hiring Chuck Noll.  Art Rooney II arguably is no Dan Rooney. Since Art Rooney II took control of the team, he hardly seemed at the forefront of running the team. He stayed in the shadow of Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert. 

That's no longer the case. Though it's been a while since assuming ownership, he seemed to have gotten fed up with the Steelers' lack of post-season success. So, he felt he needed to shake up the status quo, considering the Steelers valued tradition and have done things year in and year out in the same manner.  Patrick Peterson and Darnell Washington found that out the hard way in their original jersey number requests. 

Peterson wanted his number seven, and the Steelers said that that number was no longer in circulation. Darnell Washington wanted his college number 0. Steelers management responded by saying no, you get traditional jersey numbering like everyone before you.  The Steelers always found free agents on the cheap, which worked because the Steelers still made the post-season regularly. They didn't fire assistant coaches mid-season, either. 

Mr. Rooney's impatience with the team's lack of playoff success has led to a clear mandate for the Steelers. This season, it's no longer business as usual. Under Omar Khan's guidance, the team has shown dedication to fulfilling the owner's vision of a Steelers team back in the habit of winning in the playoffs. This renewed focus on success should inspire hope and optimism among Steelers fans. 

What's different with the Steelers these days?

Mr. Rooney's apparent need to break some ties with past traditions began late in 2023 when the Steelers suffered a humiliating loss to a rookie backup quarterback leading the Cleveland Browns. While the Steelers offense remained stagnant the entire game, Enough was enough. Previously, firing an offensive coordinator mid-season seemed sacrilegious. Not anymore. The Steelers promptly fired Matt Canada the next day.   

Mike Tomlin said he decided to do the deed, And Art Rooney II said it was his decision. As admirable as it is with the head coach and owner working in unison, Mr. Rooney has had a firm hand in showing Matt Canada the exit. Then came his statements at the end of the season when he said the Steelers needed to find new success in the post-season. Omar Khan has taken this mandate personally and is determined to fulfill Mr. Rooney's request in a way that upended Steelers normalcy.

Only Omar Khan could find a way to add players to the Steelers roster in the typical miserly Steelers fashion, being Russell Wilson and Justin Fields, while still giving Linebacker Patrick Queen a large contract that normally the Steelers do not do in free agency. Then, with his signing, even more tradition went out signing. Patrick Queen requested number 6. It's not a typical Steelers linebacker number they give out. The Steelers agreed all the same.  Whereas Darnell Washington didn't get his way, Patrick Queen did, so much for business as usual.

Then Omar Khan wasted no time sending Kenney Pickett packing after only two seasons. Granted, he didn't sound like a team sport in the end, but it was a statement that the Steelers will follow through, implement Mr. Rooney's mandate, and do everything necessary to win in the playoffs.

If these changes work, then he comes out the winner in that he made the Steelers' General Manager and head coach make the tough decisions needed to transform the team. If they fail, then some may question whether Mr. Rooney decided to take things a little too far to try to win another championship. Yet fans do need to feel excited about the direction things are headed.