Former Steelers linebacker Kevin Greene will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio as a member of the Class of 2016.
Greene, who played three of his 14 seasons with the Steelers, has been humbled by his selection into the Hall of Fame and being a part of such a small fraternity of players.
Greene sat down and talked about what it meant to play for the Steelers, his coaches and teammates, and of course Steelers Nation.
You played for four teams over 14 seasons. What did it mean to you to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers for three of those seasons?"It was a phenomenal experience. It really put me on the stage there. I was surrounded by great coaches with Bill Cowher, Dick LeBeau, Dom Capers. Great players like Rod Woodson was the corner, opposite of Greg Lloyd and of course Chad Brown and Levon Kirkland. Just that Steelers organization was a wonderful, classy organization to play for. Playing for Steelers Nation at Three Rivers was the epitome of excitement for me just to hear them cheer and just rock Three Rivers. It was a tremendous experience."
What did wearing the Steelers helmet, your jersey, represent to you?
"Just tradition, history, steel, hard workers, it was a great, hard-nosed city. The mentality of it represented so much to me. A winning tradition in everything. This is the way you are supposed to play the game, the way we played the game."
Was coming to the Steelers as a free agent in 1993 a turning point in your career?
"I think it was definitely a turning point for me. I spent eight years with the Los Angeles Rams and I was a decent player. I was a Pro Bowl player, but I wasn't a next level player. Not until 1993, that first year of free agency, when I signed with the Steelers and that 3-4 pressure scheme we played there, Blitzburgh. It just put it on a different level, on a different stage than I had been on the previous eight years. It started me on a tear in the NFL for the remainder of my career."
What changed in your game when you came to Pittsburgh?
"Our ability as a defensive unit to put pressure on people, on the running game, put pressure on the running and passing game. The attacking style mentality Coach Dom Capers had as the defensive coordinator. The entire Steelers Nation had. They wanted us to come after folks and crush people. They didn't want to see soft zones. They wanted to see, pin the ears back and turn the Steelers loose. Let them go. That's what we did. And we did it well. It was a shame we didn't win a Super Bowl during my time there, but it was go get them, go hunt them."
What was it like to play with that group of players, Woodson, Lloyd, and Carnell Lake?
"You knew that they were your brothers, that they were going to have your back, and that they were going to be all in with you. There was no question about their commitment to you and the organization and Steelers Nation. We loved each other. We played well with each other. We lifted each other up. We were truly a family. We were the epitome of what a team needs to be. No selfish attitude or egos. We put all of that on the shelf and came together and become a fine defense, a fine team."
You and Greg Lloyd made quite the combination, didn't you?
"Greg was good for me because the offenses could not solely focus on me and put two people on me. They had to account for Greg Lloyd. That was good. That helped me be a better player. I got single blocks because they had to contend with Greg Lloyd, and take into account Levon Kirkland and Chad Brown coming inside on inside cross stunts. Most teams had their hands full with us four as linebackers and the things we could do."
The group of four linebackers, you, Greg, Levon and Chad. Are you still close?
"We are. Chad and I, Greg and Levon, were going to meet up and reminisce and have fun. We have stayed in contact. We were close then, and 20 years later we are still close and involved in each other's lives. It's a great brotherhood."
What did you like about Pittsburgh and did it feel like home to you?
"It was home. Everywhere (my wife) Tara and I went, we had a great time. I am not sure if Tara and I paid for a meal in three years. We would go to a movie theater and the manager would say your money is no good here. Everywhere we went we felt so much love from Steelers Nation and it was a wonderful time."
What was it like to play in Three Rivers Stadium with the place shaking and the Terrible Towels waving?
"Playing at Three Rivers was unlike anything I ever experienced. It was like football heaven to me. They were just as excited as I was. It got me even more excited and passionate to play. When they started rocking that stadium and waving the Terrible Towel, it was deafening. Defensively we could get a team under control in the first quarter and the crowd would want more. The Buffalo Bills would come in on Monday Night and we would have them under control in the first, second quarter. They were so overwhelmed by our defense, by our fans. They were overwhelmed by the fans."
Did the players love the fans as much as the fans loved the players in those days?
"For me, oh yeah. I remember Tara and I, after the games we would go out to the parking lot at Three Rivers and sign autographs for as long as people wanted my autograph. We would stay there for an hour and half. As long as people were in line for my autograph, I would stand there and sign autographs. I wanted to give something back to them because they were giving me so much. It was a wonderful opportunity to play in front of them. I wanted to make them happy and let them know I was a Steeler."
Why was it important for you to make sure the Steelers were the team represented in your Hall of Fame apparel?"Some people may question that decision seeing I played eight years with the Rams. My years in Pittsburgh were truly the turning point in my career. I was a decent player as a Ram, but I didn't become a next level impact player until I came to Pittsburgh. It was a combination of things. The defensive scheme put me in a great position, Steelers Nation and their fervor for the game, and the organization and the rich history, the winning tradition, and my brothers that surrounded me on that defense. It was a combination of things that helped me take that step to a really impactful level and carry through the remainder of my career."
You had 160 sacks, third most in NFL history, but you did more than just rush the passer, including playing the run in the Steelers scheme. How did you tally those sacks while doing other things?
"You have to take advantage of the opportunities that you get. As a 3-4 outside linebacker you have three jobs you have to do at a high level of efficiency. One is rushing the passer like a large big defensive end. You have to play the run; you can't be soft playing the run. The other is you have to be able to drop. You have to be able to do all three of them equally as well. When you have the chance to rush the passer you have to take advantage of it and hope the quarterback holds the ball. A lot of times the quarterback held the ball because we had Rod Woodson, Carnell Lake, Darren Perry, and Deon Figures. All these great defensive backs causing the quarterback to pull the ball down from his primary and look for his secondary receiver and that was enough time for me to make a move on my big guy and make a sack."