It was 50 years ago today that Steelers history changed when the team drafted Joe Greene in the first round of the 1969 NFL Draft.
January 28, 1969
Defensive tackle Joe Greene selected in the first round of NFL Draft
Joe Greene, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, 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.
“It was almost crushing,” said Greene of being drafted by the Steelers. “They had the fourth pick and that means you lose a lot of ball games. My first year was terrible. We were 1-13. Every Tuesday we had four or five new guys come in for tryouts. Our team had new faces every week because for the most part we weren’t very good. I don’t think the atmosphere was positive.
“I truly believe along with Chuck (Noll), Dan (Rooney) and Mr. (Art) Rooney that it changed when we moved into Three Rivers Stadium. The attitude began to change. When the attitude changed, that’s where it started.”
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.
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.