If there is one player who epitomizes the Pittsburgh Steelers it is “Mean” Joe Greene. Drafted in 1969 Greene was the driving force that turned the Steelers from lovable losers into a one of the greatest franchises in professional sports. Given his impact on the Steelers it is no surprise he was listed as the Steelers’ greatest Hall of Famer by The 33rd Team.
Barry Wilner chose Greene for Pittsburgh, and when writing about his choice it seems he expected there to be pushback.
“Ok, let the screaming and yelling begin,” wrote Wilner. “Not sure if making this choice is tougher than facing the vintage Steel Curtain, but it was pretty painful not to select several of the others listed as runners-up. Still, Joe Greene was in many ways the epitome of that defensive unit – and the Steelers themselves.”
Greene is “Mr. Steeler” and is undoubtably the most important Steeler is the history of the franchise. However, his importance as a leader isn’t the only thing that makes him the obvious choice for this list; Greene was also an amazing player. Greene started his NFL career as a member of the 1-13 1969 Pittsburgh Steelers, but despite their awful record he finished the season with 9.5 sacks and won Defensive Rookie of The Year.
This was far from Greene’s peak, as he would go on to be named AP Defensive Player of The Year twice (1972 and ’74), a four-time first-team All-Pro, and was selected to 10 Pro Bowls in 13 years. Oh yeah, he won four Super Bowls and was named to the 1970s All-Decade team. When Greene retired after the 1981 season, he had 77.5 sacks (unofficial at the time). Those 77.5 sacks are still good enough to be top-five all time in Pittsburgh Steelers history and will remain in the top five for quite some time. Greene was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, cementing his place in NFL history forever.
The Steelers won their first Super Bowl and 1974 and of course Greene played a huge part in it. In the Steelers’ 16-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings, Greene picked off a pass and recovered a fumble as the Steel Curtain defense dominated the Vikings en route to their first-ever championship.
Yes, the Steelers have had a ton of great Hall of Famers over the years, and Wilner said Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, and Troy Polamalu, and Mel Blount were other options to be the Steelers’ greatest-ever Hall of Famer, but in the end, he made the right choice. There will be no pushback from Steelers fans here, Greene is and will always be the greatest Steeler of all time.