Tom Donahoe Will Stay in Pittsburgh


For a change, the Pittsburgh Steelers won’t lose a key free agent. Tom Donahoe will stay on as their director of football operations.

Donahoe, whose astute personnel moves have kept the Steelers competitive despite an annual emigration of players, said Monday he had pulled his name from consideration to become the Seattle Seahawks’ general manager.

The Seahawks previously raided the Steelers for linebacker Chad Brown and cornerback Willie Williams, and they reportedly were willing to offer Donahoe five times his estimated salary of $200,000 in Pittsburgh.


But Donahoe said his first preference was always to stay with the Steelers, for whom he first worked as a ballboy in high school, and that money was never a factor in his decision.

“This is what I’ve always wanted to do, this is where I’ve always wanted to be,” Donahoe said. “It’s always been about winning to me, and we have won in Pittsburgh and will continue to win in the future.”

Donahoe will get a pay raise but will earn far less money than he would have in Seattle, where multibillionaire Seahawks owner Paul Allen has shown a willingness to spend whatever it takes to build a winner. Donahoe met with Seahawks officials last week.

“I never expected this to happen to me,” Donahoe said. “I’m kind of overwhelmed by all of this. I’ve heard so many good things, it’s like reading your obituary. . . . To me, this speaks more for the organization. It’s more a credit to the Steelers.”

Donahoe is considered one of the NFL’s best talent evaluators, and the Steelers, who lost to Denver 24-21 in the AFC title game, have remained consistent winners via strong drafts and by replacing free agents with reasonably priced talent.

Donahoe will remain as director of football operations--team president Dan Rooney dislikes the title of general manager--and will have a contract for the first time.


The Steelers generally do not give contracts to anyone other than their coaching staff. Donahoe, who has worked for the Steelers since the mid-1980s, had always had only a handshake agreement.

But, following weeks of speculation that Seattle would overwhelm Donahoe with an offer he couldn’t refuse, the Rooneys chose to give him a contract to prevent him from leaving in the future.

Under NFL rules, a team cannot refuse to allow another franchise to talk to an employee who doesn’t have a contract.

“I don’t know that it (a contract) is necessary and I don’t know that I’ll even sign it,” said Donahoe, a longtime high school coach who worked his way through the Steelers’ organization after being hired as a scout in 1985.

Donahoe became in essence the Steelers’ first general manager in 1992, the same year Bill Cowher was hired as coach. Previously, Chuck Noll served as the coach and unofficial general manager, although others also had input into the signing and drafting of players.

Donahoe’s low-key, stay-in-the-background style is the perfect complement to the Cowher’s visible, emotional approach. Donahoe so dislikes interviews and media coverage that the only mention of him in the Steelers’ media guide is in the front office masthead.


It is likely that Donahoe’s reluctance to assume more of the limelight discouraged him from relocating his wife and two young children to Seattle, where a greater media presence would have been demanded.

Further discouraging Donahoe’s move were his close ties to the city and to the Rooney family. Donahoe’s grandfather, David L. Lawrence, was the city’s mayor and the governor of Pennsylvania, and Donahoe has been friends with the Rooneys for 40 years.

“It’s a great day for the Steelers and the city that he’s staying,” said team vice president Art Rooney II, who met with Donahoe several times over the weekend to encourage him to stay.

“We obviously came close to the Super Bowl and we feel we can continue to make a run at it . . . and Tom Donahoe wanted to be a part of that,” Rooney said.


Jim Mora announced nine members of the coaching staff he’s assembling for the Indianapolis Colts on Monday, including two assistants to former coach Lindy Infante.

All of the former Infante assistants are under contract for 1998. However, Mora said the chances of the rest of them remaining with the team were “slim.”


Mora said he met with all of Infante’s assistants last week during the Senior Bowl and that defensive line coach Greg Blache and Gene Huey were being retained.

Tom Moore, an NFL assistant since 1977, will be the offensive coordinator. He was running backs coach at New Orleans last season.

Rusty Tillman, the Oakland Raiders’ special teams coach the past two years, will be defensive coordinator.