It’s not a stretch to suggest Vance Joseph is the Denver Broncos’ head coach because of Dan Rooney.

Joseph deserved the job on his own merits, but there was a time in professional sports when the most qualified African Americans were not getting hired for high-level positions.

Rooney, the longtime owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and namesake of the “Rooney Rule” that requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching vacancies, died Thursday. He was 84.

“As someone who’s privileged to work in the NFL, my sincere condolences go out to the Rooney family, (head coach) Mike Tomlin and everyone else at the Steelers who knew Mr. Rooney,’’ said Joseph, who in January because the first, African American full-time head coach in the Broncos’ 57-year history. “I know he was a champion for diversity, not only around the NFL but also within his team. I believe the opportunity he gave coach Tomlin many years ago opened up a lot of doors for minority coaches around the league, including myself.

“When you talk about the “Rooney Rule,” and giving everyone a chance to interview for these jobs that’s a credit to Mr. Rooney and his incredible legacy.’’