PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger called into KDKA on Friday to share what chairman Dan Rooney meant to him.
"It's a sad time in Pittsburgh for Steelers fans, Steeler nation, all over the world, it just feels like we've lost a big part of our soul and who we are," Roethlisberger said, before noting that he would not be a Steeler if not for Mr. Rooney.
"Going into that draft room, he didn't go in there and boss them around, and say, 'Listen, this is what we're doing.' But, he started the conversation and said, 'Hey, let's take a look at this guy and let's think about it,'" Roethlisberger said. "I owe him such a debt of gratitude."
KDKA's Bob Pompeani joked that the quarterback had a chance to pay back that debt by winning two Super Bowls.
Pompeani: What was it like to be part of a trophy presentation to a man like this?
Roethlisberger: When I go out and play, all of us really, we go out and play for the fans. You've heard me say a million times, we win this for the fans, we win this for the Rooney family. That's Mr. Rooney, that's Art Rooney, that's Mrs. Rooney...to be able to get up on that podium and see Mr. Rooney hold that trophy. That's what we play for, we play for him. Just a father figure, grandfather figure. We just appreciated him so much and always will.
Roethlisberger voiced admiration for Mr. Rooney's humility.
"Totally selfless, a guy that would walk to the stadium and interact with people, was never to big for anybody. The last game of the year, my wife and kids were waiting in the tunnel after the game, and Benjamin is sitting on the ground, he doesn't know who Mr. Rooney is, but he smiles at him, because it's so easy to smile at Mr. Rooney. He looks down at Benjamin and puts his hand out and says, 'What a smile, what a cute little kid,'" he recalled. "From presidents to kids to the average guy on the street, same in his book."
Many people in the sports world have commented that Dan Rooney was a "voice of reason" during league meetings.
Roethlisberger agreed, remarking that he had never heard Mr. Rooney raise his voice.
"Never seen him get angry, never seen him get upset, but you knew if he stood up and said something to you, you'd better listen. He wanted everybody's else's best interest first, it was always about the team, the fans, the NFL, this organization, it was always someone else before himself," he said.
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