The Steelers announced today the team will retire Joe Greene’s Number ‘75’ in a ceremony on November 2, when the team hosts the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field.
Greene, the leader of the “Steel Curtain” defense during the 1970s, helped lead the Steelers to four Super Bowl victories and six AFC Championship game appearances. He played a critical role in the Steelers’ Super Bowl IX victory, the team’s first championship, in a win over the Minnesota Vikings with an interception and a fumble recovery. In his post-playing career, Greene became a member of Chuck Noll’s coaching staff for five years, and he later joined the Steelers personnel department for nine years.
“Joe Greene was the dominant player and the unquestioned leader of the Steelers dynasty of the 70s,” Steelers President Art Rooney II said. “It is time that we recognize his importance and many contributions to the Steelers by officially retiring his number 75.”
“Joe was the cornerstone of the Steel Curtain,” Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney said. “This isn’t something you can do for everyone. He was a catalyst and to retire his number is something we feel is a special thing. I am so happy we are honoring Joe this way.”
Throughout his 13-year playing career, all with Pittsburgh, Greene earned All-NFL honors five times and all-conference accolades 11 consecutive years to begin his tenure with the Steelers. He was twice named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1972 and 1974.
The team’s No. 1 draft pick in 1969, Greene quickly emerged in the league as he was named the NFL’s Rookie of the Year and received the first of his 10 Pro Bowl selections.
Greene was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987 and has been recognized with the following honors:
- All-Time NFL Team (2000)
- NFL 75th Anniversary Team
- Super Bowl Silver Anniversary Team
- 1970s All-Decade Team
Greene’s Number ‘75’ has not been issued by the Steelers since his retirement following the 1981 season. He will join Ernie Stautner (No. 70) as the only players in franchise history to officially have their number retired.
After a 13-year playing career, Greene briefly worked as a color analyst for CBS Sports before becoming the Steelers’ defensive line coach from 1987-91. He then went on to coach the defensive line for the Miami Dolphins (1992-95) and the Arizona Cardinals (1996-03) before retiring from coaching and moving into the player personnel department with the Steelers. He spent nine years as a special assistant for pro and college personnel for Pittsburgh before retiring in 2013.
JOE GREENE, ART ROONEY II and DAN ROONEY QUOTES:
Re: Initial reaction: “I’m overwhelmed with emotions for sure. That was my first thought. I was just very, very surprised and I almost fell out of my seat. My number, along with Terry (Bradshaw) and Franco (Harris) and Jack’s (Lambert), were taken out of commission. I’m definitely honored.”
Re: Emotions leading up to Nov. 2: “I don’t want to allow myself to think about that. I’m just extremely pleased and I know that Dan and Art II put a lot of thought into that to make that decision. The last number to be retired was (Ernie) Stautner back in 1964. It’s just overwhelming to think about it. I’ve been a fan of football and the National Football League since the earliest I can remember going back to 1958. All those guys that I looked up to from that time when I was in junior high and high school and in college were people that I admired and thought highly of. The guys that we won championships with were good people that bought into the program. They bought into the Steelers organization. They bought into Chuck Noll (and) his coaching staff. That was the primary reason that we had the success we had and if we didn’t have the success that we did I doubt we would be talking about this subject right now.”
Re: Jersey retiring in comparison to winning Super Bowls: “It’s right there. They are all joined together but it’s right there and because it’s Pittsburgh. Retiring jerseys is not something that the Steelers do (often). That makes it even more significant. I have never seen a championship banner at our stadium. We have won more Super Bowls than anybody at this point in the history of the National Football League and we don’t flaunt it. Winning is a statement and it stands alone. That, to me, and the idea about this organization and the philosophy (when they) say we are going to retire this number that’s extremely special to me because it’s not something that they do. I’m extremely, extremely happy and excited about it. I’m overwhelmed.”
STEELERS PRESIDENT ART ROONEY II:
Re: Significance of retiring Joe Greene’s number: “The question of retiring a number, we’ve talked about for a number of years. I think we always had the feeling that, well it would be nice but where do you draw the line, and are there too many guys that you would wind up having too many numbers retired. Really coming into this year with Joe retiring and coming up on the 40th anniversary of the first Super Bowl (victory), we felt it was a perfect time. We talked about it and came to the decision that it was the right thing to do (and) the right time to do it. When you look at the 1970s there are a lot of different words that have been used to describe what Joe meant to that team – cornerstone, heart of the team. It just really got to the point where it was the right time to do it and Joe obviously is the right, first person from that team to have his number retired.”
Re: Reaction from Joe Greene: “I think Joe clearly was surprised. I don’t think he was expecting it. We sat down (and) I don’t think he had any idea that that was going to be what the subject of the conversation was going to be. He was surprised and a little emotional, and I think a little taken back. Again, it was really something that I don’t think he was expecting and he was almost speechless for a little bit. It was a special, special moment. He gathered himself and said what an honor it was. Obviously we had a good conversation after that, but clearly his initial reaction was very much surprised.”
STEELERS CHAIRMAN DAN ROONEY:
Re: Joe Greene: “Joe was the cornerstone of the Steel Curtain. He was the first (player) that we drafted (with) our first pick after Chuck Noll was there so it was Chuck Noll’s first pick. He made it what it meant to be a Steeler. He made sure as he got older that people stayed in line (and) that they weren’t going to cause trouble, and he took care of that. When we went to the first Super Bowl in 1975, he just made sure everybody did what they were supposed to do.”
Re: Significance of jersey retirement: “He is a special guy. He really grew up and was a gentleman, did what it took (and) was an outstanding player. This isn’t something that you can do for everyone. He was a catalyst. He was the one that did it all and so to retire his number is something that we feel is a special thing. It’s something that we can do that he gets to be known as a Steelers legend forever.”
Re: Timing of jersey retirement: “He was a lot like Ernie Stautner, (who) was the first (to have his jersey retired). Stautner was tremendous, a great player, but a different era. What it means to us, what it means to the team, what it means to the city and everything else. I am so happy we are honoring Joe this way.”