Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

‘Ike is sort of a special guy’ Taylor exemplifie­s Rooney’s bond with players

- By Sean Gentille

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Of the eight pallbearer­s who carried Dan Rooney’s casket up the steps of St. Paul Cathedral on Tuesday, one wasn’t a grandson: Ike Taylor.

If you doubted the closeness of that relationsh­ip, you can look at the photos; Mr. Taylor, the best cornerback on two Super Bowl teams, occupied a front position.

In the wake of Mr. Rooney’s death at 84 last week, among the avalanche of tributes, Mr. Taylor already had stood out.

“I’ve been close to a lot of players down through the years,” Mr. Rooney told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette when Mr. Taylor retired in 2015. “Ike is sort of a special guy.”

Mr. Taylor was one of dozens of Steelers to pay tribute to Mr. Rooney on Tuesday. He was joined by some from the 1970s dynasty — Joe Greene, Franco Harris, Mel Blount and others — as well as some of Mr. Taylor’s contempora­ries, including Ben Roethlisbe­rger, Jerome Bettis, Antonio Brown and James Harrison.

There were politician­s: former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State John Kerry and former Attorney General Eric Holder. Even actor and Pittsburgh native Joe Manganiell­o was there.

Then, there were football dignitarie­s from around the league. NFL commission­er Roger Goodell and his predecesso­r, Paul Tagliabue, were in attendance.

Several coaches — including Western Pennsylvan­ia natives Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals and Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers — attended the service. Owners of several teams, including New England’s Robert Kraft, Dallas’ Jerry Jones, Cincinnati’s Mike Brown, Cleveland’s Jimmy Haslam, the New York Giants’ John Mara and Carolina’s Jerry Richardson, sat in the pews.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and his wife, Kiya, also remembered Mr. Rooney.

Mr. Rooney lived a “very long and good life … this wonderful story of a wonderful man,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl said in his homily.

“He grew up learning on the streets of the North Side, and in the halls of North Catholic,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “You judge people by who they are, not the color of their skin.”

One of Mr. Rooney’s lasting legacies is the creation of the “Rooney Rule,” which requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching jobs.

“One of the reasons there is so much affection for Dan Rooney is because he was a man of the people,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “He worked hard. A good man, a good neighbor. He was a Pittsburgh­er.”

That might be what helped Mr. Rooney carve such a close bond with Mr. Taylor — the sort of bond that manifests itself in special handshakes and nicknames and honors like the one Mr. Taylor received Tuesday.

“You see a guy who has all this money, but he still drives a Buick. … You see a guy with all this money, but he’s still got, like, four or five suits,” Mr. Taylor said on NFL Network last week. “You see a guy who’s just humble, a guy who doesn’t worry about the materialis­tic things, who just cares about people in general.

“He put the players first. It was genuine. It was authentic.”

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