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Old 03-20-2005, 11:46 PM   #1
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Default Rooney II says its time...

For another CHAMPIONSHIP ..

KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Palm Sunday Mass took on a different ritual for the Rooneys yesterday morning. They could each stroll outside, cut their own piece of fresh palm branch and offer it for blessing at a private Mass on this western part of Maui.

Dan and Pat Rooney invited their entire clan -- children, spouses and grandchildren -- for what amounts to a family reunion during the annual NFL meetings that began in paradise yesterday. They even brought their own priest to celebrate Mass.

Dan's eldest son, Art Rooney II, presides over the Steelers as president and after a special Mass yesterday morning on a special day in a special place, the son offered his own thoughts on a subject many Pittsburghers regard as a religion of its own -- his football team.

Art Rooney believes it's time that team won another championship. After coming close so often over the past decade, the third Rooney president of the franchise believes the time is at hand to add another Super Bowl trophy to their aging collection.

"I think for the people who have been around for a while now, I think we all feel like it's time," Rooney said yesterday as a cool breeze whipped off the Pacific Ocean. "We've been close and we have to take that last step."

Five times in the past 11 seasons, the Steelers have played the AFC championship game at home and not won a Super Bowl. They lost four of those games, including this past season when coach Bill Cowher's team set a record for the Steelers and the American Conference by going 15-1, only to lose for the second time in four years at Heinz Field to New England in the title game.

"I know Bill feels that way, that we have to get this done," Rooney said. "I think he has a very good staff and feels like we have to get this done, that we're in a position we can do this now. I think there's that kind of commitment to it that we have to take advantage of the opportunity when it's there."

That is one reason why the Steelers have restructured contracts this spring at a pace never before seen. They have redone the contracts of six veterans, reducing their salary cap this season by pushing the cap accounting off into future years. They are doing it, Rooney said, in order to keep together and improve a team he believes can win it all.

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