Former Pittsburgh Steelers front-office executive Dick Haley has died at the age of 85 after a long battle with illnesses, his son confirmed on Friday.
“Very sorry to say, the world the NFL and my entire family lost one of the best people I’ve ever known and my idol,” Todd Haley wrote on Twitter. “A man that gave me the best chance to succeed in this world, my father Dick Haley after long fight with dementia and Parkinson’s.”
Haley was the director of player personnel for the Steelers from 1971 to 1990, and was the de facto general manager of the squads that won four Super Bowls in the 1970s. Haley’s greatest contribution to the Steelers was his direction of the 1974 NFL Draft class that saw the team select four future Hall of Famers.
“We lost an amazing football mind and a better man with the passing of Dick Haley,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a press release. “He was a valuable part of this franchise for 23 years, the first 4 of those as a player and the final 19 as a member of the Player Personnel Department. Dick played an instrumental role in our unprecedented success in the 1910s during the second part of his career. He developed a unique eye for talent, and he ultimately helped identify and draft many of the players that allowed us to win four Super Bowls during that decade. My condolences go out to the entire Haley family during this difficult time.”
A native of Midway, Pennsylvania in northwestern Washington County, Haley attended the University of Pittsburgh, where he was a running back from 1955-58. Haley rushed for 741 yards and had eight total touchdowns in three seasons of playing with the Panthers. He was part of the Pitt 1955 Sugar Bowl team, though he was ineligible as a freshman. Haley took part in the 1956 Gator Bowl.
Haley was drafted in the ninth round of the 1959 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, starting a six-year professional career that saw him transition from running back to defensive back.
Haley started with Washington as a rookie in 1959 and received votes for NFL Rookie of the Year. After two seasons starting for Washington, he moved to Minnesota and then back to Pittsburgh, where he joined the Steelers midseason in 1961. Haley ended up playing 49 games and making 39 starts for the Steelers from 1961-64, recording 13 interceptions, for which he remains tied for 32nd in team history.
After his playing career ended, Haley joined the Pittsburgh front office in 1971, working with Dan Rooney, Bill Nunn and Chuck Noll to revamp the team’s talent acquisition process.
The result was spectacular, with the Steelers drafting Jack Ham, Dwight White, Larry Brown, Frank Lewis and Gerry Mullins in 1971; Franco Harris and Steve Furness in 1972 and J.T. Thomas in 1973, in addition to the incredible draft haul in 1974, setting the table for the team to win an unprecedented four Super Bowls over the next six years.
Haley stayed with the Steelers until 1990, then spent another 16 years with the New York Jets as their GM before finishing his career with the Miami Dolphins before retiring to Florida.
Haley’s son, Todd Haley, took up the family business and was the offensive coordinator of the Steelers from 2012-17. He is currently the head coach of the Memphis Showboats of the USFL.