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Labriola On

On L.C., pushing buttons, youth on 'D'


Ready or not, here it comes:

  • Last week's installment included an item about Tony Dungy outlining a case for Donnie Shell's election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame via the Seniors Committee. The work of this committee is valuable, because it allows candidates to get a second look from the Board of Selectors via a yay-or-nay vote as opposed to being in competition for one of the five slots allotted each year for the modern era candidates.
  • Players can be considered by the Seniors Committee once their careers have been over for 25 years. Since Donnie Shell retired after the 1987 season, he became eligible for Canton via the Seniors Committee in 2012.
  • Rick Gosselin, a veteran, respected columnist for The Dallas Morning News and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Selectors, is part of the nine-member Seniors Committee, and he long has trumpeted the notion that defensive players are under-represented in Canton. He also is the person who contacted Dungy to talk about Shell. In the interest of balancing the scales in Canton, I would humbly submit another name for consideration by the Seniors Committee:
  • L.C. Greenwood.
  • The story of L.C. Greenwood is one that exemplifies the philosophy Chuck Noll brought to the team when he was hired in January 1969. The late Bill Nunn, the long-time scout who was one of the people unearthing the nuggets of talent being polished into championship football players, always said the mandate back then was to find athletes for Noll and the coaching staff, and then they would turn those athletes into football players.

Joe Greene is just the second player in franchise history to have his number retired. To celebrate, here are some special images highlighting Number 75.

  • Picked on the 10th round by the Steelers from Arkansas AM&N in the same 1969 draft class that included Joe Greene, Greenwood was too slight to play for many teams, but Noll and defensive line coach Dan Radakovich nurtured his athleticism. By 1971, Greenwood was a full-time starter at defensive end, and he led the NFL that season with five fumble recoveries.
  • Two seasons later, once Ernie Holmes became a starter at defensive tackle alongside Greene, the Steel Curtain was complete.
  • As a defensive end, Greenwood came to be recognized for the gold high-top cleats he wore, but he was first and foremost a big-game player. From 1973-75 he had 25.5 sacks; in Super Bowl IX he batted down three passes; and in Super Bowl X he sacked Roger Staubach three times. He is ranked second on the Steelers' all-time sacks list with 73.5.
  • One final note regarding Greenwood's candidacy: not only would his election advance the cause of defensive players enshrined in Canton, but it also would put the Steel Curtain on an even footing in the Hall with two of the NFL's other legendary defensive lines.
  • Deacon Jones and Merlin Olsen are enshrined as members of the Los Angeles Rams' Fearsome Foursome, and Carl Eller and Alan Page are enshrined as members of the Minnesota Vikings' Purple People-Eaters. Joe Greene is the only piece of the Steel Curtain with a bust in Canton, and the Steelers' defensive line came to be recognized as the best of its era.
  • Electing L.C. Greenwood would fix everything.
  • The Steelers got their entire draft class of 2015 under contract when seventh-round pick Gerod Holliman signed his deal last week. Why was Holliman the last to sign? Sometimes agents think being difficult in negotiations is a sign they are doing their jobs, even though being difficult nets their clients not an extra nickel.
  • One of the underrated elements of OTAs is the way Coach Mike Tomlin constantly moves among the different groups of players. Part of what he's doing is learning where the different guys' buttons are and how they react when he pushes them. Those buttons will get a real workout once the proceedings move east to Saint Vincent College in late July.
  • Senquez Golson should expect to find himself in those crosshairs often. And when it happens, Senquez, remember that if he's not on you anymore then he's given up on you.
  • As detailed by Mike Prisuta in a recent story he wrote for, there has been something of an emphasis on two-point conversions during these OTAs, as players and coaches all across the league try to determine what impact the rule change might have in 2015. "We're trying to really get into seeing what's best for us, what's best for our team," Roethlisberger said to Prisuta. "A typical season, you go in and you have two or three two-point plays because you really don't plan on using them too much, and if you do maybe you use the second one way down the road. This is going to be something where, we may use this 15, 20, 50 times. Who knows? You need to have multiple plays."
  • Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis says the new extra point rule is a bigger deal than people think, because kicks from the 23-yard line are significantly tougher in winter weather. "As coaches, we're going to have to spend more time during training camp, during the week on both the offensive part of two point conversions and the defensive parts of two point conversions," said Lewis to Jim Rome.
  • The Steelers evidently agree, and they're not even waiting for training camp.
  • It wasn't all that many seasons ago when the Steelers defense was being characterized as "old and slow," but things certainly have changed in rather rapid fashion. In 2012, the Steelers defense had six starters who were in their 30s. These are the ages of the first 11 on defense during OTAs: Cam Heyward 26; Steve McLendon 29; Stephon Tuitt 22; Jarvis Jones 25; Ryan Shazier 22; Lawrence Timmons 29; Arthur Moats 27; William Gay 30; Shamarko Thomas 24; Mike Mitchell 28; and Cortez Allen 26.
  • That makes the average age 26.1 years. The youngest team in the NFL in 2014 was the St. Louis Rams, at 25.09 years.
  • There are two guys who are getting through this offseason totally under the radar, and yet each one will have a real opportunity to put himself on solid footing for the next phase of his NFL career.
  • Antwon Blake is under the radar because the attention focused on the defensive backfield has been trained either on the veteran duo of Cortez Allen/Shamarko Thomas, or on the three rookie draft picks – Senquez Golson, Doran Grant, and Gerod Holliman. But do not discount Blake, who already has shown himself to be good enough on special teams to earn a roster spot based on that alone.
  • And Mike Adams is under the radar because it's a common opinion outside the organization that 2015 will be his last season with the Steelers. Injuries pop up all along an NFL offensive line every year, and when that happens Adams will get into the lineup with another chance to show himself capable of contributing to winning football, which he did last season.
  • Blake is playing under the one-year restricted free agent tender he signed in early April, and Adams is going into the final year of the four-year deal he signed as a rookie in 2012. NFL teams always are on the lookout for cornerbacks who can make a difference on special teams, and for a 6-foot-7, 323-pound offensive tackle who's still in his mid-20s.
  • The Steelers would be one of those teams, too.
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