Joe Greene once said to me it's nice to be remembered for what he did. I had the chance to talk to him in 1996 at a 'Steel Curtain' reunion that took place at a restaurant in suburban Pittsburgh.
Hundreds lined up to see him, L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White and Ernie Holmes that afternoon in Monroeville. They signed lithographs of the famed D-Line that dominated the NFL for a decade.
On Wednesday, in a bit of a surprise move, the organization that made him the No. 4 overall pick in the 1969 NFL Draft retired his number 75. The official ceremony will take place Nov. 2 at Heinz Field vs. Baltimore.
Greene chose the date himself.
It's only fair the greatest Steeler of them all receives this honor.
The Steelers over the years have been very hesitant to 'retire' a number. It's something they generally don't do. Ernie Stautner's #70 is the only other number that's been designated as retired, although the team has not issued Terry Bradshaw's #12, Franco Harris's #32 or Jack Lambert's #58 since they all retired.
It's quite fitting for such a mean guy.
Let's face it, without Joe Greene, the Steelers we know today would not exist. This website wouldn't exist, or at least be as big as it is. We wouldn't be chanting, 'Here we go' or looking for a 7th Lombardi. Hell, this franchise might still be looking for it's 1st if it wasn't for Greene's dominant play.
Bradshaw was brilliant. Franco ran hard. Lambert and Ham were ferocious. Big Ben is a beast.
None can touch what Green did for this franchise.
Simply put, without the drafting of this great athlete from North Texas, the Pittsburgh Steelers we know would be no different than say the Browns or Bengals at this point.
Now that's a scary thought.
I was a kid growing up in the 70's and don't remember much of his playing days. I have some, but not enough to say 'I remember when...' but I can tell you that I do remember his last few years in the league and how different things were for a team that won 4 of 6 Super Bowls in a row.
It all was possible because of Joe.
If you followed the Super Steelers of the 70's you probably have a favorite story of Greene, who was known for being not so nice.
Made that 'Mean Joe' thing easy to apply I guess.
My greatest memory of him was carrying Steelers head coach Chuck Noll on the Orange Bowl turf after beating Dallas in Super Bowl XIII. Greene wasn't known for smiling, but he flashed those pearly whites and it was captured so well by the the AP, a picture of the act was placed front and center of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the next day with the headline 'Super Super Super' across the front.
Joe Greene was exactly that for the Steelers. Nothing short of super actually and the honor of retiring his number was long overdue. Kudos to the Rooney's for doing this. There is nobody more deserving than Joe Greene.
Without him, the Steelers wouldn't be, well, da Stillers!
John Phillips is a radio personality for 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh and a columnist for Behind The Steel Curtain. His articles will be posted regularly throughout the Steelers season. Check him out on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.