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Mean Joe Greene: 'I'd have a very difficult time playing today'

Whether the Steelers legend means literally he would struggle against today's competition as opposed to struggling to adapt to the regulated era of the game is unclear. Greene would succeed in any era due to his strength and athleticism.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

"Mean" Joe Greene proved hard work has its rewards.

Perhaps the highlight of a star-studded defensive game in Super Bowl IX against the Minnesota Vikings, Greene was the benefactor of a deflected Fran Tarkenton pass. L.C. Greenwood got his hands on a ball and re-directed it right to Greene, who, in a recent interview with ESPN 1660 in Central Texas, was down on himself for it.

"I thought I could get down the field and score but I went down real quick," Greene said to the station, as quoted by ESPN reporter Scott Brown. "I really, really was disappointed in my run. I thought I could get down the field and score."

The Vikings had several disappointing runs in that game, one in which they averaged 1.6 yards per attempt through the course of the Steelers' 16-6 victory. The lowest cumulative scoring between the two participants in Super Bowl history reflected both the outstanding ability of the two defenses involves, but also, that of an era in which defenses were able to do much more without being penalized.

Whether players in previous eras could play today and vice versa is often lamented with no way to determine such a thing. Mean Joe suggested, perhaps, he'd struggle playing in 2015.

"It was a quick hit and trying to get rid of the guy," Greene said. "What these guys do now, it's a lot of wrestling. I don't particularly like that [because] you have to be able to attack and defend yourself in the game of football. I started out being taught that you need to bring toughness and mayhem if you're on defense. In my time if guys didn't have that they didn't play. I know I'd have a very, very difficult time playing the game today."

Whether that means he thinks he'd struggle, or the incredibly physical and powerful Greene feels he'd be regulated out of the NFL is unclear. Greene's size and athleticism transcends any era. He'd be outstanding in the 1960s as he would today.

Perhaps he'd pick up a few more fines today than he did then, but that's just how the game is played now.