“If anyone could be bitter with their lot in life, it would be that soldier, living with the atrocities that happened there, thousands of miles away, and yet he chose to make a difference, he chose a positive attitude. I thought, if he can have that kind of attitude, what about me? … I finally got the courage to ask a physician what he thought about my injuries, and if I could play. His reaction to that question was something like, ‘You can have a normal life, doing the things normal people do, but don’t expect to have the strength nor the flexibility to do the things necessary to be a running back in the NFL.'”
The franchise, along with the Rooney family have for generations been strong advocates for equality of opportunity for both minorities and women. Among these achievements of the Steelers was the first to hire an African-American Assistant Coach (September 29, 1957 with Lowell Perry ), the first to start an African-American quarterback (December 3, 1973 with Joe Gilliam ), the first team to boast of an African-American Super Bowl MVP (January 12, 1975 with Franco Harris ), the first to hire an African-American Coordinator (September 2, 1984 with Tony Dungy ), the first owner to push for passage of an "equal opportunity" mandating that at least one minority candidate is given an interview in all head coach hiring decisions throughout the league (the Rooney Rule in the early 2000s), and the first to hire a female as full-time athletic trainer ( Ariko Iso on July 24, 2002).
Note: Although Marlin Briscoe is sometimes erroneously cited as the first African-American starting quarterback in 1968, this was not for an NFL team and not in an NFL game, additionally the vast majority of Briscoe's career was not as quarterback.