It’s not often that a defensive tackle can become the most important draft pick in the history of a professional football team but ultimately, the fourth overall selection in the 1969 National Football League Draft became exactly that.
Charles Edward Greene, better known as “Mean Joe” Greene was the defensive tackle in question. Drafted out of North Texas State by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Greene would go on to become one of the most dominating defensive players of his or any other time. Known as a man that absolutely despised losing and would do anything to avoid it, Greene would win four Super Bowl titles with the Steelers and would enter the NFL Hall of Fame in 1987. His story is quite familiar, but two other guys from that draft would prove extremely crucial to the Steelers’ dominance of the 1970’s as well.
In the third round of that draft a young man name Jon Kolb was selected by the Steelers out of Oklahoma State. While Kolb didn’t see the field much in his first two seasons, he eventually emerge as the guy to protect Hall of Fame Quarterback Terry Bradshaw’s blind side until he retired in 1981.
Like Greene, Kolb would go on to win four Super Bowls with the Steelers and would start 177 total games in the black ‘n gold. Often known as one of the strongest men to ever play the game, Kolb competed in the “World’s Strongest Man” competitions twice in the late 1970’s finishing 4th both times.
Unfortunately Kolb also became a symbol for the problematic issue of steroid use by professional football players during that era. Steeler-Haters love to point out this fact when trying to detract from the four Super Bowl titles of the 1970’s. Fact is, it wasn’t just the Steelers. It was rampant throughout the league.
While third round guys are typically expected to make an NFL roster, guys who are drafted in the 10th round are expected to hold dummies before being cut during training camp. The NFL Draft does not even have a ‘10th round’ now as the draft has been reduced to seven full rounds so had it been this way in 1969 there is no telling if defensive end L.C. Greenwood would have ever even been a Pittsburgh Steeler at all.
Drafted from Arkansas AM&N (now Arkansas Pine Bluff) Greenwood would become part of the famous ‘Steel Curtain’ along with first round pick that year, Mean Joe Greene. Many believe Greenwood to be a victim of the Steelers’ success because he continues to be left out of the Hall of Fame. With so many other greats from those teams already being inducted, many see Greenwood as simply being passed over so as not to have yet another Steeler in the Hall.
Easily considered to be one of the Steelers more colorful players of the era, Greenwood stood out not just because of his size and excellent speed, but also his gold shoes. In Roger Goodell’s NFL today, Greenwood would have been fined for wearing them because they didn’t meet proper uniform standards.
Greenwood was a dominant force at times being selected to six Pro Bowls and making the 1970’s All-Decade Team. He would collect five sacks in his four Super Bowl victories and terrorized the Vikings’ Fran Tarkenton and the Cowboys’ Roger Staubach at will in three of those games.
Kolb and Greenwood are classic examples of a piece I wrote about last week concerning guys you just have to have that aren’t necessarily all-stars. Certainly these guys were well above average, but they are rarely mentioned first in the list of great Steelers.
While the 1974 Steelers’ Draft will always go down as the greatest in terms of pure talent selected, the 1969 draft is no less impressive. Greene, Kolb and Greenwood were durable guys who missed very few games and left an impact on both a city and the game itself.