Joe Greene is not
the meanest guy you’ve ever met, unless you happened to play offense against the Steelers between 1969 and 1981. If you were one of those unfortunate few, you knew that Joe Greene earned every letter of that nickname. It never was more apparent than in his rookie season.
The Steelers won their first game, then things went south quickly. The Steelers were 1-6 when they traveled to Chicago to play the vaunted Chicago Bears, and a defense led by the meanest player in the game, Dick Butkus. It wasn’t a pretty game for the Steelers, as the Bears’ offense scored at will, and Butkus was hammering the offense, blitzing on nearly every play. Butkus had timed the Steelers’ cadence, and was getting a running jump on nearly every play.
As the game progressed, Joe Greene was watching this on the sideline, and he wasn’t happy about it. What could he do about it as a defensive player on the other team? Take matters into his own hands, that’s what.
The Steelers’ offense was on the field, and Butkus happened to pass about five to ten yards away from where Greene was stewing on the sidelines. In the blink of an eye, Greene charged onto the field screaming at Butkus, grabbed his facemask, and spit directly into the leader of the ‘monsters of the midways’ face. Greene was looking for a fight. Butkus, notorious for his rough and ready style of play, decided that fighting Greene wouldn’t be prudent
, and slowly walked back to the huddle and away from the snarling Greene. That’s right, the rookie lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers got the most feared defender on the planet to back down.
Whether or not Joe Greene is the face of the Steelers or not, he certainly brought the mentality to the Steel Curtain defense that eventually made it the greatest defense in NFL history.