One of the most respected Steelers players of all time is Mean Joe Greene. He’s been there for 4 Super BOwl wins and has seen just about everything you can possibly see in the NFL during his playing and coaching career. When he speaks, people tend to stop and listen.
Greene has been on the Steelers staff since 2004 as a special assistant in the personnel dept. He’s involved many aspects not the least of which is scouting. With all the controversy surrounding what type of offense the Steelers will run in 2012, Mean Joe understands the mentality of running the football. He also understands that even the best of franchises can sometimes “stub their toe”. Nobody is perfect, but it’s how the Steelers will respond to their self imposed challenge to run the ball more effectively that will go a long way to how the upcoming season will unfold.
Count Joe Greene among those happy to see the Steelers move to change their approach on offense.
“If it doesn’t feel good, you have to change it and, basically, it wasn’t feeling good,” Greene said Friday. “It wasn’t feeling good in ’09, and it wasn’t feeling good in 2011.”
Greene, a Hall of Fame defensive tackle chosen the most important player in Steelers history, spent time promoting a new commercial for Procter & Gamble that is a takeoff on his famous Coke commercial 32 years ago which won a Clio.
Greene, a special assistant in the Steelers personnel department since ’04, said watching the offense last season was difficult for him.
“I don’t like the imbalance,” he said in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He implied the Steelers could be playing Sunday in the Super Bowl had there been smarter play-calling on offense.
Steelers president Art Rooney II essentially fired offensive coordinator Bruce Arians when he did not offer him a contract renewal after the season. Monday, the Indianapolis Colts hired Arians as their offensive coordinator.
“I don’t disagree with him,” Greene said of Rooney’s move.
The Steelers offense last season ranked 12th in the NFL in total yards but 21st in points scored. Coach Mike Tomlin has been interviewing candidates for a new offensive coordinator.
Greene said his complaint with the offense did not lie in the ratio of runs to passes but in the lack of commitment to run, especially in obvious situations.
“Look at the teams that are here,” Greene said of the Super Bowl matchup between the New England Patriots and New York Giants. “There is a method to their madness, there is a system, you can see what they’re trying to do.
“When New England played the [Baltimore] Ravens [in the AFC championship game], had they continued trying to throw the football, they would have lost it. They decided they had to run it, but they couldn’t line up and show you they were going to run it, they had to look like they were going to throw the pass, and that’s when they ran the ball on them. And that allowed them to score a couple touchdowns.
“And the Giants, they run the football pretty good, but they mix in the pass, and they can throw the ball.
“The thing that people don’t understand with us, I’ve heard it said … ‘We want to throw the football because we have all the people.’ Well, hell, [in the 1970s], we had Terry Bradshaw, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann; we had Jimmy Smith, we had the tight end. We could throw the ball when we had to, and we could run it when we had to. That’s football! You do what you have to do when you have to do it — run it when you need to, throw it when you need to. It’s not all one way. I think that’s what we didn’t get.”
Greene, who attends training camp with the rest of the scouts for at least the first two weeks, said the commitment to run should start there, and he did not see that.
“That means you have to practice it, that’s the thing. For 18 years [as an NFL defensive coach], one of the things that I did was draw up the running game for 9 on 7 and for team,” Greene said of those practice sessions. “And there is always a weakness in a defense for the run, but you have to be able to look for it. You don’t just call the run because you get tired of throwing it or because someone wants you to.”
Greene blamed the Steelers loss Nov. 6 to Baltimore on the offense’s inability to run the clock with the lead. The Ravens drove 92 yards in the final two minutes to score the winning touchdown with eight seconds left, 23-20. He also noted that, even in the regular-season finale at Cleveland, the Browns were throwing desperation passes with a chance to win at the end, chances Greene believes they would not have had if the offense had used the clock better.
“In our second game against Baltimore, if we play smart football, we’re going to be in a position to host the AFC championship game,” Greene said. “I just think that we let this opportunity get away.”
He has faith, however, that the Steelers will find someone to improve their offense for ’12.
“Oh, yeah. The organization is a great organization, and, sometimes, great organizations stub their toes.”