By Chris Emma–

(CBS) The NFL lost one of its greatest men Thursday with the passing of Steelers owner Dan Rooney at the age of 84.

Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000, Rooney was also the U.S. ambassador to Ireland. He was the son of Art Rooney, the founder of the Steelers. Among his many contributions to the game, Rooney spearheaded the “Rooney Rule,” which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head-coaching and general manager positions.

Bears coach John Fox, who started in the NFL with the Steelers back in 1986, and chairman George McCaskey released statements remembering Rooney’s contributions to the game.

“Ambassador Rooney was one of the giants of our game,” McCaskey said. “His quiet counsel to League commissioners going back to Bert Bell was invaluable to the success of the NFL. When Dan Rooney spoke at a League meeting, the entire room became quiet, because everybody wanted to hear what he had to say. That’s the kind of respect he commanded from our group. He has also the conscience of the NFL, always stressing what was best for the game, the players, and the fans. Everything he did was done with class, dignity and humility. He was, quite simply, a great man. Our condolences to his wife Pat, his son Art, the Steelers organization, and Steelers Nation. May the road rise up to meet him.”

“My sincerest condolences to the Rooney family and the Pittsburgh Steelers organization on Dan’s passing,” Fox said. “All of us across the NFL lost a great man today. I am proud to have started my NFL coaching career with his beloved Steelers in 1986 and I will always be thankful for that opportunity. He was a first class gentleman and a gold standard as a Hall of Fame owner.”

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.