In Pittsburgh, the winds of change erode even tempered steel.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Ed Bouchette shared a conversation with "Mean" Joe Greene in his premium on-line column, which can be found here. While Bouchette's column shares several read-worthy anecdotes on Greene, most noteworthy were him comments on the differences between the dynasty of the 1970's and the Steelers modern era.
"The scary thing is that players have a one-upsmanship about money; they sign a contract and they like it until someone signs a bigger one and now they don’t like it. I don’t like that. I don’t begrudge anyone money but it disrupts the football team."
"It’s an attitude change. 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."
"Guys are taking locker room information and knowledge outside the locker room. That was something the group I was involved with and when I was coaching, players didn’t do that."
"Again, I think that’s the attitude and direction that was so preeminent with the Pittsburgh Steelers; it was about family, it was about team, the organization. Everyone in the organization would get treated fairly because we were a family."
"I think that’s the attitude that’s been with the Steelers all these years. That’s one of the reasons the team has been competitive the majority of time after the first Super Bowl, after Franco came."
In an off-season consumed by talk of locker room fractures, his comments hit a little close to home.
Greene is not the first to identify the player-first mentality which has taken over the modern free-agency and salary cap era of the NFL. Some would point to the Young Money Crew moniker adopted by the Steelers young trio of receivers - Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. Others could associate Greene's comments about money with James Harrison's refusal to accept a pay cut this off-season, leading to his current employment by the Cincinnati Bengals.
With the very temporary shelf-life of the average NFL player, it is understandable why individuals try to balance their future when negotiating contracts in the present; however, many players hold to the belief "If the team wins, the player wins". Not every player is willing to wait for the team to catch up.
Greene did express optimism in the team's recent acquisitions, acknowledging a change for the better in observable morale. The Steelers seemed to emphasize character when building their draft board this season. Perhaps Greene wasn't the only one in the organization who felt the roster was due for an attitude adjustment.