Long before he became U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, Dan Rooney was a diplomat. Seen as a voice of reason by both sides, he helped settle two players strikes in the NFL in 1982 and '87 and later became a confidant of players union head Gene Upshaw.
Many credited that friendship and trust between Rooney and Upshaw for the long period of labor peace in the NFL -- 24 years without a work stoppage and a series of extensions on a collective bargaining agreement first crafted in 1993.
But now with an owners lockout headed toward three months long and no end in sight with less than two months left before training camps are scheduled to open, Rooney said he will not get involved in the current negotiations, officially or unofficially.
"They have not" brought him into any of the talks, Rooney said. Asked if he would, he said sternly, "No."
"Art's involved," Rooney said. "He knows what he's doing."
His son Art, the Steelers president, has taken his place on the management council executive committee that is overseeing its side's negotiations with the players association. Art Rooney II was in Chicago the previous two days of mediated talks with the players union.
Asked if he thought the NFL would play football in September, Dan Rooney responded diplomatically, "We'll see."
Art Rooney II succeeded his father (and his grandfather before him) as Steelers president, and Dan Rooney gave up his title as the team's chairman in exchange for chairman emeritus two years ago when President Barack Obama appointed him to become U.S. Ambassador to Ireland.
Rooney said Friday he would stay in that job "probably another year." Rooney campaigned for Obama's election in 2008, so he was asked if he would do it again in 2012.
"Maybe," he replied, then quickly added, "I'm not allowed to say that nor is he."
Rooney and his wife, Patricia, have been in Pittsburgh for a week and will return to Dublin after another week's stay. Rooney had surgery last month on his back. He attended the unveiling Friday of the Steelers 2010 highlights film inside Heinz Field before invited guests.
Rooney also did not seem particularly happy with a proposed rule that has been dubbed "The Steelers Rule" that would punish teams for a collection of legal hits by their players.
"There's too many things involved to have that rule," Rooney said. "That rule didn't pass yet, you know."
He said he does not see his team as a target of the NFL as it tries to crack down on particularly dangerous hits, especially to the head.
"It's one of those things, you just have to play and do what you have to do," he said.