I heard Art Rooney say this week that Joe Greene was the “cornerstone” of the greatest defense of all-time and he’s right. I would take it a step further however and suggest that he was the cornerstone of the franchise’s rise to power which it has held since his arrival in 1969.
While “Mean” Joe Greene would certainly become the anchor for the ‘Steel Curtain’ he also was in many ways its’ face, heart and soul. Greene was an angry, fierce competitor who at times could even come off as petulant to some observers, but he is who he is.
With Greene formally retiring this week from the front office of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Hall of Famer made some comments that have wrangled some and I’m not sure why.
Greene said he became ‘frustrated’ with Steelers who made an issue of how much they were earning instead of focusing on uniting as a team to win. Green also said “In all my years of being with Pittsburgh, I never encountered a player taking a contract dispute into the season and letting that dispute affect the way he played. That’s a bad thing.”
Nothing Greene says is untrue and it it could be said across the board about any of the NFL’s 32 teams, not just the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I wrote just yesterday about the Steelers’ Ryan Clark who embodies an ‘old school’ mentality on the field yet is the epitome of what Greene is talking about off of it. Players in Greene’s day did not pursue their post-football careers until after their football career was over or at least did so behind closed doors and without calling out teammates and smack-talking opponents.
This new attitude of players isn’t entirely their fault as agents and PR people push them constantly to make a name and face for themselves and of course more money. Clark is only doing what the nature of the beast tells him to whether I like it or not. And I don’t.
It’s very clear to me that the Steelers’ way of handling players and the team is in fact changing. Greene’s comments validate much of what fans like myself have been saying in recent years in that there is clearly a shift in what is going on down on the South Side. This ‘shift’ has not exactly gone smoothly either.
Sadly for Greene and for guys like myself, nothing is going to change. Free agency has destroyed loyalty and team unity to the point now where teams are just simply ‘collections of players’ who may be around awhile or may not. I’ve accepted that but I don’t care for it.
To some, Greene may be riding off in to the sunset as a bitter, old former player and that’s fine. I’ll always see him as a legend and one of the greatest Steelers of all-time for which he certainly is. I will also see him as a guy who sees what is happening to the franchise he helped flourish and as a guy who views the changing face of the game he once owned as less than positive.
There’s nothing ‘mean’ about that because it’s true.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.