Charles Edward Greene, better known as “Mean” Joe Greene was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the 1969 NFL Draft. From that day, the days of a losing franchise were over. The Steelers did not just find a cornerstone of a dominating defense, they found the cornerstone of their entire franchise.
After being drafted, the Pittsburgh Press released an article titled: “Who’s Joe Greene?” Where a writer interviewed several people around the Pittsburgh area that were dumb founded by the selection of Greene, and most had never heard of the 1968 All-American.
Greene attended the University of North Texas from 1966-1968. In that time, Greene played 29 games and the entire defense held opposing teams to less than two yards a run on average. A lot of that rested in the arms of Mean Joe Greene. In result, Greene was enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1984.
This was just the beginning for Greene. Greene won four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers, helped build a dynasty, he was the core piece of the beloved “Steel Curtain” defense, and was also enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.
Come Sunday, Greene will accept another honor but perhaps the most special to him. The Pittsburgh Steelers will retire the number 75 jersey for no one to ever wear that number again in a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform. Many may say this is a obvious move, but it’s something Greene is not taking for granted.
In an interview Greene gave this past week, the Hall of Famer said he has spent a lot of sleepless nights wondering if he is worthy of the honor. Greene then went on to say he will be emotional. The tale of the tape when it comes to the Steelers is they do not retire jerseys. With over 80 years of history, Greene will become just the second player to have his jersey retired in franchise history behind Ernie Stautner (#70).
How are all the other greats reacting about this Sunday’s event?“He was a tremendous player,” said Hall of Famer Mel Blount. “We all have witnessed him dominating games. We were down in Houston and he took over a game and dominated it. Probably one of the greatest games I ever witnessed a player play.”“Joe brought out the best in me during games,” said Franco Harris. “I watched Joe, I watched our defense. First of all I felt sorry for the other running backs. The way Joe played, our defense played, it inspired me. It helped me when it was time for us to go out on the field because we saw the attitude and what these guys were giving.”
Greene has not put on a helmet since 1981, but he still has a lasting impact on this franchise. Just ask head coach Mike Tomlin. When he was asked about the ceremony during Sunday Night’s game against the Ravens in his weekly press conference, Tomlin responded:
“It’s Joe Greene,” said Tomlin. “We all feel a little better when we see Joe, even though he is not playing. I know the fans have a level of appreciation for him and what he meant to this organization, the city and football in general. I expect it to be a really positive thing and one that we can hopefully find a source of energy from that can help us perform in the game.”
Note that this ceremony was also scheduled during Ravens week. Where no extra motivation is needed, but if you are going to add some, better make it the best player to ever put on a Steelers helmet. A player who would face double and sometimes triple team match ups and was still a force.
Steeler Nation, when Sunday night arrives, it’s Joe Greene’s night. Whether you are going to the game or not, make some noise for Mean Joe!
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