Joe Greene (American football)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Joe Greene
refer to caption
Greene in 1975
No. 72, 75
Position: Defensive tackle
Personal information
Date of birth: (1946-09-24) September 24, 1946 (age 70)
Place of birth: Elgin, Texas
Height: 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Weight: 276 lb (125 kg)
Career information
High school: Temple (TX) Dunbar
College: North Texas State
NFL Draft: 1969 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4
Career history
As player:
As coach:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games: 181
Player stats at

Charles Edward Greene, (born September 24, 1946) known as "Mean" Joe Greene, is a former all-pro American football defensive tackle who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL). Throughout the early 1970s, Greene was one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL.[1] Winning two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, as well as earning five first-team All-Pro selections, Greene is widely considered one of the greatest defensive linemen to ever play in the NFL. He was the cornerstone of the "Steel Curtain" defense,[1] and as of the death of L.C. Greenwood on September 29, 2013, is its last surviving member. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and a four-time Super Bowl champion. Greene is also well known for his appearance in the "Hey Kid, Catch!" Coca-Cola commercial in 1979, widely considered to be one of the best television commercials of all time.

Early life and college career[edit]

Charles Edward Greene was born September 24, 1946, in Temple, Texas. He played high school football at Dunbar High School in Temple. Greene played college football at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) from 1966 to 1968, leading the team to a 23–5–1 record during his three seasons. In his 29 games at defensive tackle, North Texas State held the opposition to 2,507 yards gained on 1,276 rushes, a per carry average of less than two yards per attempt. His collegiate coach, Rod Rust, said of Greene, "There are two factors behind Joe's success. First, he has the ability to make the big defensive play and turn the tempo of a game around. Second, he has the speed to be an excellent pursuit player." A pro scout said, "He's tough and mean and comes to hit people. He has good killer instincts. He's mobile and hostile."[2]

Pro football career[edit]

The Pittsburgh Steelers franchise was one of the most downtrodden in the NFL, having experienced many losing seasons before the hiring of Chuck Noll as head coach in 1969.[3] Noll and the Rooney family agreed that building the defensive line was crucial to rebuilding the team.[4] Thus, they decided on Greene with the fourth pick of the 1969 NFL Draft. The selection proved unpopular with fans and media, who were hoping for a player that would generate excitement; the relatively unknown Greene did not appear to meet their expectations.[5] The highly competitive Greene, meanwhile, was disappointed he was picked by a team that had such a reputation for losing.[6] "I did not, did not want to be a Steeler," he admitted in a 2013 interview.[7] Noll saw immense potential in Greene and insisted on drafting him.[8] In a matter of months he established himself as one of the most dominant players in the league at his position. Despite his team finishing 1969 with a 1–13 win–loss record, the Associated Press (AP) named Greene the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and a first-team All-Pro,[9] and he was invited to his first Pro Bowl.[10]

Former teammate Andy Russell called Greene "unquestionably the NFL's best player in the seventies," saying "No player had a greater impact or did more for his team."[11] Greene and Coach Noll are widely credited with turning the Steelers franchise around.[12][13] The Steelers finished 1970 with a 5–9 record and went 6–8 in 1971. Greene was invited to the Pro Bowl in both seasons.[14] In 1972, Pittsburgh finished 11–3 and won its first division title and its first playoff game—the "Immaculate Reception" game against the Oakland Raiders. During the season, Greene tallied eleven quarterback sacks and 42 solo tackles, and he was recognized as the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Dolphins head coach Don Shula lauded Greene, saying, "He's just a super super star. It's hard to believe he isn't offside on every play. He makes the other team adjust to him."[15]

By this time, Noll had built a formidable defense. "We have maybe 10 guys now capable of making All-Pro," said Greene in 1972. "I'm just like all the other guys, doing my best in a team effort."[15] With the drafting of defensive tackle Ernie Holmes in 1972, the Steelers assembled what became known as the "Steel Curtain" defensive line of Greene, Holmes, L. C. Greenwood, and Dwight White. Greene was invited to the Pro Bowl for 1973, joining White and Greenwood on the American Football Conference (AFC) roster.[16]

Greene won his second AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award after the 1974 season, becoming the first player to receive the award multiple times.[17] That year, he developed a new tactic of lining up at a sharp angle between the guard and center to disrupt the opposition's blocking assignments.[18] On January 12, 1975, the Steelers won the first of four Super Bowl championships in a six-year span by defeating the Minnesota Vikings 16–6 in Super Bowl IX. In that game, lined up against center Mick Tinglehoff, Greene recorded an interception, a forced fumble, and fumble recovery in what is considered one of the greatest individual Super Bowl performances.[19][20][21] Pittsburgh limited the Vikings to only 119 total yards of offense, and stifled their running game to 17 rushing yards.[22]

Greene, along with other members of the Steel Curtain, appeared on the cover of Time magazine in December 1975, a rare tribute.[6] After leading the Steelers to another Super Bowl win after the 1975 season over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X, Greene missed the first several games of the 1976 season with a back injury. The Steelers started off the season 1–4 and looked like they would not make the playoffs. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw was also injured and was replaced by rookie Mike Kruczek. Greene returned and the Steelers defense carried the Steelers to nine straight wins and the playoffs. With a defense considered one of the best in NFL history, the 1976 Steelers held opponents to an average of less than 10 points per game (138 points over 14 games). During their nine-game winning streak, the Steelers defense recorded five shutouts, another modern record,[citation needed] and gave up a total of 28 points (roughly 3 points per game). The defense allowed only two touchdowns over nine games.

His spot in the lineup was technically not replaced; the Steelers switched to a 3–4 defensive alignment for the 1982 season, which has only one nose tackle as opposed to two defensive tackles, giving the extra spot to a second middle linebacker. The team has used the 3–4 as its base alignment continuously in the years since Greene's retirement.

His end stats were 181 games, 78.5 sacks (unofficially, as sacks were not an official statistic until 1982) and 16 fumble recoveries.

Attitude and demeanor[edit]

In his early years with the Steelers, Greene was at times uncontrollable, and often let his temper get the best of him. On one occasion during a 1975 game against the rival Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in which the Steelers won 42–6, Greene repeatedly kicked Browns lineman Bob McKay in the groin while McKay was lying on the ground.[23]

Greene, along with middle linebacker Jack Lambert, became the emotional leaders of the defensive squad.

Retirement and later life[edit]

After retiring from the NFL, Greene spent one year (1982) as a color analyst for NFL on CBS before becoming an assistant coach under Steelers' head coach Chuck Noll in 1987. He spent the next 16 years as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, and Arizona Cardinals. In 2004, he retired from coaching and was named the special assistant for player personnel for the Steelers. In this position he earned his 5th Super Bowl ring after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL, and a sixth from Super Bowl XLIII. Greene is one of four people outside the Rooney family to have Super Bowl rings from the first six championship teams.[24] Greene retired from his position in the Steelers' front office in 2013.[25]

Legacy and honors[edit]

In 1984, he was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. In 2006, Greene was voted to the East-West Shrine Game Hall of Fame.[26]

Greene's number 75 jersey was officially retired at halftime during the Steelers game against archrival Baltimore Ravens on November 2, 2014, a game the Steelers won 43–23. Greene also briefly wore number 72 during his rookie season before switching to his more familiar 75 midseason. He was the second Steeler to have his jersey formally retired, the first being Ernie Stautner.[27][28] However, the Steelers had not reissued No. 75 since Greene's retirement, and it had been understood long before 2014 that no Steeler would ever wear it again.[citation needed] Greene was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

Coaching career[edit]

Coca-Cola commercial[edit]

Main article: Hey Kid, Catch!

Greene appeared in a famous commercial for Coca-Cola that debuted on October 1, 1979 and was aired during the 1980 Super Bowl. The ad won a Clio Award in 1980 for being one of the best commercials of 1979.[29] It is widely considered to be one of the best television commercials of all time.[30][31][32][33]


  1. ^ a b Best run stuffer? Finding the best defensive tackle in the NFL. USA Today. July 5, 2008
  2. ^ "Joe Greene College Football Hall of Fame bio". College Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 7, 2009. 
  3. ^ Freedman & Hoak 2009, p. 72.
  4. ^ Millman & Coyne 2010, p. 45
  5. ^ Smith, Don (1993). "Chuck Noll" (PDF). The Coffin Corner. 15 (2). Retrieved October 19, 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Freedman & Hoak 2009, p. 83.
  7. ^ Pompeani, Bob (November 25, 2013). "Joe Greene Opens Up About Time With Steelers, Teammates' Passing". CBS Pittsburgh. Retrieved October 18, 2016. 
  8. ^ Wexell, Mendelson, & Aretha 2014, p. 82.
  9. ^ Harrison, Elliot (April 9, 2015). "Top rookie seasons of the Super Bowl era: Defensive linemen". National Football League. Retrieved October 19, 2016. 
  10. ^ "Sports Briefs". The Tuscaloosa News. December 23, 1969. p. 6. Retrieved October 19, 2016. 
  11. ^ Russell, Andy; Bleier, Rocky (2012). "Joe Greene". Andy Russell: A Steeler Odyssey. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. ISBN 1613211597. Retrieved October 18, 2016. 
  12. ^ Pomerantz 2014, p. 58.
  13. ^ Brown, Scott (June 14, 2014). "Hall of Famer Chuck Noll dies at 82". ESPN. Retrieved October 19, 2016. 
  14. ^ "Joe Greene Stats". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved October 19, 2016. 
  15. ^ a b Mihoces, Gary (January 5, 1973). "Joe Greene Defensive Player of the Year". The Evening News. Associated Press. p. 6B. Retrieved October 19, 2016. 
  16. ^ "1973 NFL Pro Bowlers". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved October 21, 2016. 
  17. ^ "Defensive Honor Goes To 'Mean' Joe Greene". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Associated Press. January 8, 1975. p. 1C. Retrieved October 21, 2016. 
  18. ^ "Joe Greene Bio". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved October 21, 2016. 
  19. ^ "Best Defensive Super Bowl Performers". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 21, 2016. 
  20. ^ Ruiz, Steven (February 2, 2016). "The best Super Bowl performances at every position". USA Today. Retrieved October 21, 2016. 
  21. ^ Silverman, Steve (2014). Who's Better, Who's Best in Football?: Setting the Record Straight on the Top 65 NFL Players of the Past 65 Years. Skyhorse Publishing. p. 71. ISBN 1613217536. Retrieved October 21, 2016. 
  22. ^ "Super Bowl IX Game Recap". NFL Enterprises LLC. Retrieved October 21, 2016. 
  23. ^ Rivalry makes turn to primetime. The Morning Journal. September 14, 2008
  24. ^ "Pittsburgh Steelers". Retrieved February 20, 2014. 
  25. ^ Bouchette, Ed (May 7, 2013). "Steelers legend Joe Greene retires from front office job". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 6, 2013. Retrieved May 6, 2013. 
  26. ^ Hall of Fame. Shrine Game
  27. ^ Steelers All-Time Roster by Name Through 2005 Season.
  28. ^ "Mean" Joe Greene, on
  29. ^ Shontell, Alyson (January 18, 2011) "The 10 Best Award-Winning TV Ads Everyone Must See". BusinessInsider
  30. ^ Fowler, Scott (February 23, 1992). "Take it from Mean Joe: Famous ad wasn't easy". Philadelphia Inquirer. 
  31. ^ Best Super Bowl commercials. ESPN
  32. ^ Mooney, Philip; Ryan, Ted; Nash, Helen (November 29, 2000). "Highlights in the History of Coca-Cola Television Advertising". Fifty Years of Coca-Cola Television Advertisements: Highlights from the Motion Picture Archives at the Library of Congress. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 3, 2016. 
  33. ^ "Top 10 Super Bowl Commercials of All Time: Coke's Mean Joe Greene, #3". Warner Brothers. Retrieved June 17, 2011. 


  • Freedman, Lew; Hoak, Dick (2009). Pittsburgh Steelers: The Complete Illustrated History (illustrated ed.). MBI Publishing Company LLC. ISBN 0760336458. 
  • Millman, Chad; Coyne, Shawn (2010). The Ones Who Hit the Hardest: The Steelers, the Cowboys, the '70s, and the Fight for America's Soul. Penguin. ISBN 110145993X. 
  • Pomerantz, Gary M. (2014). Their Life's Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers (illustrated, reprint ed.). Simon and Schuster. ISBN 1451691637. 
  • Wexell, Jim; Mendelson, Abby; Aretha, David (2014). The Steelers Experience: A Year-by-Year Chronicle of the Pittsburgh Steelers (illustrated ed.). MVP Books. ISBN 0760345767. 

External links[edit]