Mean Joe Greene retires from Steelers for final time
Hall of Famer has been part of every NFL championship
May 7, 2013 12:00 PM
Joe Greene and Hines Ward share a laugh at 2011 Steelers training camp in Latrobe.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Man landed on the moon the year Joe Greene first joined the Steelers in 1969. Many thought that was an easier accomplishment than him helping the team win a championship.
He helped them win six.
Joe Greene, 66, retired Monday from the Steelers, leaving his third different job with them for a third time. This retirement, he said, is permanent. The Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle and cornerstone of the 1970s Super Bowl dynasty that forever changed the face of a losing franchise announced his retirement after nine years as a special assistant for pro and college personnel for general manager Kevin Colbert.
Archive video: A celebration of Joe Greene's career
When Joe Greene was awarded a Dapper Dan lifetime achievement award, he used the occasion to talk about Steelers Nation. (Video by Bill Wade; 5/6/2013)
Mean Joe Greene's iconic Coca-Cola commercial
The Steelers are once again saying goodbye to Mean Joe Greene, whose iconic coca-Cola commercial is a part of his legacy. (5/6/2013)
It marks the end of a 27-year career for Greene with the Steelers, including 13 as a player and five as a defensive line coach under Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll.
"I was very fortunate to have worked for the Steelers, the Rooneys and Chuck," Greene said from his Flower Mound, Texas, home near Dallas. "I know without a doubt the reason I got a job with Pittsburgh for coaching was because of Chuck. He trusted me as a guy who hadn't coached before and he thought I had the wherewithal to do it. I think he was right. I know he was right.
"The Steelers have influenced everything I've done as an adult."
Greene's most memorable moment with the Steelers came when they beat the Raiders in Oakland in the 1974 AFC championship game to advance to their first Super Bowl.
"That was always the highlight for me, going from 1-13 my rookie season to all the years we worked hard and really didn't get to the game. ... That was just the best moment, and then we kept stacking moments on top of that, but that was the one for me.
"Winning the Super Bowl was obviously a great one, but the joy I felt of going to the Super Bowl, it was what I felt about the Pittsburgh Steelers and where we came from, the history of us to that point."
The Steelers had not won a playoff game until 1972 and, after beating Oakland in that AFC title game in 1974, they would make it four Super Bowl championships in six years, with Greene the unquestioned leader of the Steel Curtain defense. He would pocket two more Super Bowl rings in his role as a scout in this century.
This third retirement was much easier for him than the previous two.
"The football after 13 years, that was quite emotional because at that time it was all I knew," Greene said. "That was quite emotional for sure."
Noll hired him to coach his defensive line in 1987 and, after five years of doing so, Greene was a finalist to succeed Noll after the coach's retirement following the 1991 season. But when the job went to Bill Cowher, and the new coach did not keep Greene on his staff.
"When Chuck retired and I basically got fired, that was definitely emotional," Greene recalled.
Noll put in a good word for him with another Hall of Fame coach, and Don Shula hired him on the spot without an interview to coach his defensive line in Miami. He coached for the Dolphins (1992-95) and Arizona Cardinals (1996-2003) and worked briefly as an analyst for CBS Sports.
The Steelers essentially created a job in their scouting department for him after the Cardinals let him go.
"Dan [Rooney] told me to come back to Pittsburgh," Greene said. "I said I'd love to. Obviously, he and coach Cowher and Kevin Colbert put their heads together and made it work.
"I was back doing a job I thought I could do because I did bits and pieces all my coaching career, and it was a wonderful thing to get a full breadth of scouting. Those guys, Kevin and all those scouts, I learned from them. It's not easy."
Said Steelers president Art Rooney in the team's announcement on Greene, "There are very few people in the history of the NFL who have had a greater impact on one franchise than Joe Greene has had on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"As a player, Joe was the cornerstone of the greatest defense of all time. As a coach, Joe helped Chuck Noll finish his tenure as head coach. Then we were fortunate to have Joe rejoin the organization in our player personnel department for the last nine years, which included two more Super Bowl championships. Joe has been an inspiration in this organization in many different capacities over so many years. We will miss Joe Greene, but he will certainly continue to serve as an ambassador of this organization for many years."
Greene said he will spend more time with his wife, Agnes, and his family, which includes three children and seven grandchildren.
He leaves the Steelers a different franchise than the one he joined in 1969. Today, a .500 record is a bitter disappointment for a team whose fans expect it to compete for a Super Bowl annually.
"That's a good thing because I don't think we want to lose that, the pursuit of winning a Super Bowl," Greene said. "That was what Chuck told us in his first meeting, that the goal was to win the Super Bowl. It took us six years before we did it."
But then they kept coming, and a big reason was the arrival of Joe Greene.
If the Steelers ever win another, it would be the first one without him.
"I feel very very proud and fortunate to have been a part of that group," Greene said. "It didn't start out that way. The organization was able to select players that had a like mind-set or developed that mind-set. We were able to stay focused like that for the most part over these years. That's really what it's about, a group of guys, an organization all pulling simultaneously at the same end of the rope.
"I'll miss them, miss being up there. It was a special part of my life for sure."