Bouchette on Steelers: Soon Joe Greene will have an unequaled six rings

... But only one first visit with President Obama


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Joe Greene cannot predict if he ever will try on all six of his Super Bowl rings at the same time. After all, he never tried on all five when the Steelers won that "one for the thumb" three years ago.

"I knew they wouldn't fit,'' Greene said.

Greene is the only man who played for the Steelers who will have six Super Bowl rings when they're presented at a private June 9 ceremony at Heinz Field. He could update that long-ago Pittsburgh Press photo of himself flashing four rings on one hand, as well as upstage a similar Sports Illustrated photo of Rocky Bleier doing the same in 1980.

Greene won his past two as a special assistant scouting college and pro players for the Steelers the past five years. Yet last week was his first visit to the White House with the Super Bowl champions. He and his wife Agnes visited once before at the invitation of fellow Texan George H.W. Bush for lunch, but missed his team's first invite as champs by Jimmy Carter in 1980 and again in 2006 by George W. Bush.

The Hall of Fame defensive tackle -- considered the rock in which not only a Super Bowl dynasty was built but a player who set the tone for a complete makeover of a franchise -- was not going to miss this trip to the White House.

"How good is it to go and meet the president!" Greene exclaimed.

This one was extra special for Joe and Agnes Greene for many reasons. When Greene was the team's No. 1 draft pick from North Texas State in 1969, the country not only wasn't ready for a black president, much of it still wasn't ready for black football players.

The Steelers of the 1970s owed much of their success to players from tiny black colleges -- most in the south -- who were not recruited by the major football powers at the time. They included L.C. Greenwood (Arkansas AM&N), Mel Blount (Southern), Frank Lewis (Grambling), Steve Davis (Delaware State), Dwight White (East Texas State), Ernie Holmes (Texas Southern), John Stallworth (Alabama A&M), Sam Davis (Allen) and Donnie Shell (South Carolina State).

Most were gleaned by scout Bill Nunn, hired in the 1960s from the Pittsburgh Courier, where as a sports writer he compiled the first black All-American teams for what was then a national black newspaper.

Try putting together a Super Bowl dynasty without those players.

Greene still remembers what those days were like as he came to the downtrodden franchise in Pittsburgh 40 years ago, and how far things have come.

"To think, all these years later, that this franchise has won more Super Bowls than any other NFL team ever at this point, that's a wonderful thing," he said. "Then, having the honor to meet the president is really, really special.''

To meet this president was special coming from where Joe Greene came, and not just on football fields.

"Do you remember on election night when it was announced Obama was president? I was watching it alone in a hotel room and I got all teared up. It caught me completely by surprise, my reaction.

"He was the guy we voted for because of the man, of what he stood for and how he presented himself. I was overjoyed.''

Greene told Barack Obama that story when he met him and shook his hand during last week's visit. Then, he listened as the president publicly mentioned him during his speech on the South Lawn.

"That was a special treat,'' Greene said. "I was pleased because then the cameras came over and I could point to my wife, because she is just a big, big supporter of the president, as am I. Not only did he recognize our football team, our city and our ownership, but he also took time to recognize the men and women who fight for this country.''

Dan Rooney's farewell

Dan Rooney resigned all of his positions on NFL committees he held at the league meetings in March. Now, he has one more resignation to make.

Once he is confirmed by the Senate as United States Ambassador to Ireland, likely to happen in June, Rooney will step down as chairman of the Steelers.

Rooney would likely carry the title of chairman emeritus of the Steelers after that. His son, Art Rooney II, replaced Dan as president of the team in 2002 and will continue in that role.

Another major change in the franchise will be the official closing on the restructured ownership. The closing date has again been pushed back and now is scheduled sometime later in June.

More NFL hypocrisy

Club owners voted unanimously to allow their teams to cut deals with state lotteries to put their logos on instant scratch-off games in return for a cut in the revenue. This, at a time when the league filed a brief to prevent the state of Delaware from instituting sports betting.

And, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Eagles and Steelers are talking with the Pennsylvania State Lottery about deals to put their logos on the instant games. The state lottery already has scratch-off tickets for the Pirates and Phillies.

The New England Patriots announced a similar deal with the Massachusetts lottery in which club owner Robert Kraft said, according to the Associated Press, "This is going to be a hugely successful collaboration.''

Other teams also are negotiating with their respective state lotteries to get in on the pot of lottery gold.

And the NFL forced some Rooney brothers out of Steelers ownership because their horse and dog tracks are legal racinos?


Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com .


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