Steelers fans had a lot to cheer about on Sunday evening. The team saluted one of the all time greats, as they retired the number of Hall of Fame defensive tackle “Mean” Joe Greene at halftime. Wrapped around that ceremony were two halves of football that saw the Steelers demolish their arch rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, 43-23.
This was revenge for the Steelers, answering the 26-6 beating they took in Baltimore in Week 2. Ben Roethlisberger turned in an outstanding performance, tossing six touchdown passes. This is the second game in a row that Roethlisberger has thrown six touchdowns, breaking an NFL record. As previously reported in the Inquisitr, former Steelers coach Bill Cowher called the team “soft,” following a loss against Cleveland last month. But, in three games since that loss, the Steelers have put up 124 points, suggesting that the offense, at least, is getting the job done.
But, as good as all that was, the highlight of the evening for many was the jersey retirement ceremony for one of the Steelers’ all time greats. “Mean” Joe Greene, Pittsburgh’s number one draft pick in 1969, played for the Steelers from 1969 to 1981, and terrorized quarterbacks and offenses. He won four Super Bowl rings as part of the Steelers’ famed “Steel Curtain” defense.
ESPN reports that Steelers fans, for the most part, stayed in their seats rather than venture to concession stands during the ceremony. Heinz Field erupted in cheers as Greene emerged from the tunnel, then quieted to a reverent silence as the Steelers played a video highlighting Greene’s career. The crowd then chanted “de-fense” as Steelers president Art Rooney II spoke of the part Greene played in helping the Steelers to four Super Bowls.
Greene, surrounded by his family and former teammates, teared up as he was presented a number 75 jersey by Rooney. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette describes how, before the game, Greene’s jersey was unveiled next to that of Ernie Stautner, the only other Steeler to have his jersey retired.
Greene spoke about the honor.
“I thought my knees got weak when Dan and Art [Rooney] told me they wanted to retire my number. This is completely overwhelming. I can’t say how happy I am to be placed in this awesome category with Ernie. I saw Ernie for many years coach the Dallas Cowboys and I also had the privilege to be there when he [died]. He was the first Mr. Steeler and I am so happy to be in his category.”
The Post-Gazette describes the experience as “bitter sweet” for Greene. He is the lone surviving member of the Steel Curtain defensive line. His coach with the Steelers, Chuck Noll, died in June. Greene spoke of the closeness among the group.
“There are not many days that go by that I don’t think about Chuck. And that was when he was with us. And there are not many days that go by when I don’t think about L.C., Dwight and Ernie. Those were special relationships individually and as a group. We would talk all the time, probably more so in retirement than when we played. It was indeed special.”
Joe Greene holds a special place in Steelers’ fans’ hearts. The man who was known for being so fierce on the field is now a graying giant known as “Papa Joe” to his grandchildren. It can probably be fairly said that the Steelers, and the NFL, will never see the likes of those Pittsburgh Super Bowl teams, or “Mean” Joe Greene, again.
[Image via Robin Rombach/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]