As a part of the NFL’s 100th season the league has been counting down the best all-time, from plays, to teams, and everything in between.
Now they have taken the next step, naming the Top 100 players in NFL history to the NFL 100 All-Time Team.
As a part of the Top 100 there are 14 defensive linemen and 12 linebackers selected. And you can’t talk defense and not talk Steelers football.
On Thursday night, during the Falcons-Saints game, the first player was revealed who is part of the group, and that was Joe Greene. The rest of the group will be announced on Friday night.
Defensive Tackle (1969-81)
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: 1987
Joe Greene changed what it meant to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He changed the mindset of those who wore the black and gold, starting with his teammates in the 1970s, with his impact still lasting today.
Greene, a man who admittedly was disappointed to be drafted in the first-round by the team in 1969 when they were a losing franchise, through his play and dedication made those who were drafted after him honored to be selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Greene, the leader of the Steel Curtain defense for 13 seasons, the Hall of Fame defensive tackle who helped bring four Super Bowl championships to Pittsburgh, the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is the player who helped shape the franchise and he was honored for everything he did when his No. 75 was retired in 2014, only the second number in franchise history ever to be retired.
“When you look at it, Joe Greene was the guy who anchored that whole football team,” said fellow Hall of Famer and former teammate Mel Blount. “Not just on the field, but Joe Greene was a stabilizer. He kept everything in the locker room even keeled. He was a great leader. Joe Greene was a tremendous guy for the Steelers.”
Greene was selected to the Pro Bowl 10 times, including eight straight years from 1969-76. He was a five-time first-team All-Pro selection, 11-time first-team All-AFC selection, NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice (1972 and 1974) and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1969. He was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, the 1970s All-Decade Team and the Steelers 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Greene’s best season came in 1974 when not only was his on field play stellar, earning NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors, but he also was an emotional leader, inspiring his teammates en route to the team’s first Super Bowl victory in Super Bowl IX.
“From an attitude standpoint, a desire, he’d do whatever you had to do to win,” said his late Coach Chuck Noll. “He was special from a leadership standpoint. Everybody thinks leadership comes from how you talk, but it really doesn’t. Leadership on the field from a football player is how you perform. If you’re a performer, you can be a leader. Joe was an outstanding performer, and he led that way.”
His performance in the AFC Title game against the Oakland Raiders that led up to the Super Bowl was in one word, dominant.
“I have the ultimate respect for Joe Greene,” said former Raiders offensive guard Art Shell. “He was a great player. He was the catalyst for that football team. Joe was a great player. I think he was the best Steelers player ever. The battles were always fun, a lot of pushing and shoving, a little trash talking afterwards. We had a lot of banter, a lot of fun.
“His play was intimidating. You would see him walk on the field and he would give you that little sneering smile he had, and he would get a little laugh. Once that ball was snapped, you knew it was a war. He came and brought it every time. You knew you were in a physical battle the whole game.”
Greene followed that up with an interception and fumble recovery in the win over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX, the first of four Super Bowl wins he would be instrumental in.
When Greene stood on the steps of the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, with former Coach Chuck Noll as his presenter, his love for the Steelers fans shown through.
“In Pittsburgh, if you are not at the stadium at 1:00 on Sunday in the fall, you are at the wrong place,” Greene said in his speech. “They are always there. Without the fans it is something different and we certainly appreciate and love you for that. And you have impacted my life because you are important.”