The 300: #33 Joe Greene

We welcome The 300 back from its Christmas break with a feature on the man who was, for many, the first recognisable face of the NFL – even if he wasn’t playing football at the time.



Pittsburgh Steelers (1969-1981)



Defensive Tackle



As we have hinted above, UK NFL fans were probably aware of ‘Mean’ Joe Greene before they knew anything at all about the NFL, courtesy of his appearance in this commercial. However, Greene would not have got such a prestigious gig if he hadn’t been one of the most recognisable NFL players of his generation, one of the four brilliant defensive linemen who helped the Steelers to multiple Superbowls in the 1970s.

Along with Ernie HolmesL.C. Greenwood and Dwight White Greene formed the legendary Steel Curtain, one of the most talked-about defenses of the time. He was, however, a standout player in his own right. His unofficial sack total in his twelve season career was 78.5 and he missed only nine games during that time. He was an expert in using different body angles off the line of scrimmage to give himself an advantage against blockers who were not expecting to face someone who was not squared up to them. In total, he won four Superbowl rings, a figure which only two players have surpassed.

An emotional individual, Greene was quick to anger in his early playing career and would certainly have found himself a much poorer one in today’s fine-heavy NFL. But he was a leader, capable of silencing querulous teammates with a glance and a vital presence in the locker room during those successful years in Pittsburgh.

Retiring after the 1981 season, Greene became returned to the Steelers in 1987 as an assistant coach. He moved to Miami and Atlanta over the intervening years, before returning ‘home’ in 2004 to a front office job as special assistant for player personnel. He remained in that role until his final retirement in 2013, earning two more Superbowl rings along the way. He is one of the few elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame at the first opportunity, in 1987.

Richard O’Hagan

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Richard O'Hagan
Writer on such diverse topics as sport, music, theatre, law and politics. Author of 'Eddie the Sheep'. Supporter of underachieving teams, including the Chicago Bears from before that brief, heady, period in the mid-1980s when they were actually any good. All I want for Christmas is a Jim McMahon away shirt.
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    Richard O’Hagan

    We welcome The 300 back from its Christmas break with a feature on the man who was, for many, the first recognisable face of the NFL – even if he wasn
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