"You may delay, but time will not."
Joe Greene's number 75 being immortalized forever is an amazing and deserved honor. But unfortunately for Mean Joe, Benjamin Franklin's quote about time pertains to his glorious night.
Joe Greene is the greatest Steeler of all-time, and appropriately, he will be honored on November 2nd at Heinz Field when the Steelers host the Ravens. And none of the three teammates that he shared his legacy with or his coach during that time will be there.
Joe Greene was apart of the greatest defensive line in the Super Bowl era.
Their only competition in regards to the greatest defensive ever is the Los Angeles Rams' fearsome foursome in the early 1960s. Doomsday and the Purple People Eaters? Vanquished by the Steelers three times in Super Bowl competition. The Youngblood gang? The fourth defeated foe by the Steelers in Super Bowls in the 1970s.No Name Defense? Finished two Vince Lombardi Trophies shy of the Steelers load.
Ernie "Fats" Holmes was the wild card of the group; the brick house that stonewalled running backs at the point of contact. Dwight "Mad Dog" White more than lived up to his nickname. While Greene was nicknamed "Mean", many 70's Steelers (and their opponents) refer to him as the real nasty one of that group. He was the engine that kept the group's horsepower in high gear. L.C. was once described by John Facenda as a "volleyball player in pads", an offensive linemen's nightmare with his long, rangy arms that constantly batted passes into the sky. Fran Tarkenton was the beneficiary of his own pass in Super Bowl IX, just one of three pass deflections by Greenwood in the game. L.C. came to Pittsburgh the same year with Greene in 1969 and followed him into retirement 13 years later. Many consider "Hollywood Bags" Greene's closest teammate.
Together, the foursome became the Steel Curtain, the men that paved the way to a dynasty. They were on the cover of Time Magazine while becoming the iconic symbol of the Steelers reign over the NFL during that era. To me, watching those four play together must of been like watching Michael Jordan. You just know you are seeing the best, something that comes around once in a generation. They were the best that ever was, and the best that ever will be.
Greenwood passed away last fall. Ernie and Dwight each passed away months from each other in 2008. Each death led to a phone call to Joe Greene, who then attended each one's funerals to pay his final respects.
You see the name Chuck Noll come up in many recent stories quoting Greene about his number retirement. It's no secret how much Greene looked up to and admired his coach. While Noll could come off as aloof to some, Greene "got" his coach, and his coach got him, too. They knew what it took to be great, and they taught a franchise how to do it, too.
Noll passed away just months ago, leading to another phone call and another visit to pay final respects. Another one of the people closest to Greene's during that part of his life is gone.
It's unfortunate that Noll and the rest of the Steel Curtain will not be there in person when Greene is honored on November 2nd. The night will still be an historic one as Steelers fans, young and old, can celebrate our admiration for the greatest Pittsburgh Steeler of our time, together,with the current team, and most importantly, with him.
I'm not yet 30 and yet I know about the rich tradition of the Pittsburgh Steelers and how it all started in the 70's. For those of us that didn't get to enjoy the team's heyday like the older generation, moments like this are the only ones where we get to cheer for your Steelers. For some of the younger Steelers fans that were educated on those great teams, they're our team, too.
I think the Steelers are doing a wonderful thing by retiring Greene's jersey. But they waited too long. Greene is nearing 70 years old; it's been 33 years since he retired. Ernie Stautner, the only other Steelers player to have his number retired waited one year to have his number 70 immortalized.
I read one article recently that stated that the Rooneys were reluctant for a long time to retire a 70's players jersey because there were so many great ones. I'm sure Noll and Greene's teammates from that era would have had only pure happiness in their hearts if they were there standing with Joe on that November night. Their leader, the one that started it all, would represent them in franchise mortality.
I understand the Rooney family's thinking. And I know you can't predict what will happen in life. But maybe it's a lesson to honor someone sooner rather than later, so that more people associated with that person can share the moment with them. You may delay, but time will not.
Number 75 represents Joe Greene, but it also represents the 1970s. Steelers. Let's hope Mean Joe feels the presence of Noll and from all of his teammates that night, no matter where they are. It's just a shame they can't all be there in person.