The Pittsburgh Steelers retired Hall of Fame defensive tackle "Mean" Joe Greene's No. 75 jersey at halftime of the team's game against the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 2.
The Pittsburgh Steelers retired former defensive tackle "Mean" Joe Greene's No. 75 jersey on Nov. 2.
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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ray Fittipaldo reported on the development:
"Now graying and known as 'Papa Joe' to his seven grandchildren, the 68-year-old Steelers legend who wore the uniform number 75 became the second player in franchise history to have his jersey retired and the first from the teams of the Super 70's.
"Mr. Greene joined Ernie Stautner, whose No. 70 jersey was retired 50 years ago.
"In a ceremony in FedEx Hall inside Heinz Field three hours before the Steelers-Ravens game, team president Art Rooney II unveiled the jersey that now resides next to Mr. Stautner's in the hall.
"'I thought my knees got weak when Dan and Art told me they wanted to retire my number,' Mr. Greene said. '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.'
"At that point, Mr. Greene broke down. The emotions caught up to him.
"'I was just thinking about the journey, how special it has been for me, how blessed I've been to be a Pittsburgh Steeler,' Mr. Greene said later. 'Initially, I was hesitant about being a Steeler because of the history. Prior to me being a Steeler, we won two out of 14 games. My first year, we won one out of 14. We didnt' start very well. Thanks to the leadership of the Rooneys and Chuck Noll, that all changed.'
"When Mr. Greene was honored on the field at halftime, he once again wiped tears away when Mr. Rooney introduced him to the crowd. Throughout his speech to the sellout crowd Mr. Greene heard that chant 'Mean Joe, Mean Joe.'
"Mr. Greene was joined by Steelers from all points in his journey. Art Rooney, Jr., who was the head of the Steelers personnel department in 1969 when Mr. Greene was drafted, joined his brother, Dan, the team chairman, for the ceremony. General manager Kevin Colbert, who worked with Mr. Greene for nine years in the scouting department, was there. Many of Mr. Greene's teammates came out to support him, including fellow Pro Football Hall of Famers Franco Harris, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann and Mel Blount.
"'He really was the bedrock, the fondation of our 70's team,' Mr Harris said. 'To have this recognition today is so wonderful. I'm so happy to be able to celebrate this with Joe and to honor him for everything he has contributed to the great city and the Pittsburgh Steelers.'
"Mr. Greene's emotions also flowed because of those who were not there to celebrate with him. Mr. Greene is the last surviving member of the iconic Steel Curtain that also included Dwight White, Ernie Holmes and L.C. Greenwood. Mr. White and Mr. Holmes died five months apart in 2008. Mr. Greenwood died last year.
"Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll, the man who drafted Mr. Greene and later hired him to coach alongside him, died in June."
Greene spoke with Teresa Varley of the Steelers' official website a day before the retirement ceremony to discuss his sentiments on the honor:
"'My first reaction was wow,' said Greene. 'I am glad I was sitting down. I got a little weak. I was floored. I said thank you. Thank you so much. I almost wanted to say are you sure? I was completely overwhelmed. I sat there for quite a while and let it sink in. I knew about my jersey being put on the shelf, mine, 32 (Franco Harris), 12 (Terry Bradshaw) and 58 (Jack Lambert) and I was comfortable with that sometimes.'
"Greene, the leader of the Steel Curtain defense for 13 seasons, the Hall of Fame defensive tackle who helped bring four Super Bowl championships to Pittsburgh, the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, knew when he learned the news from Steelers' Chairman Dan Rooney II that this was big, really big.
"'Because it hadn't been done in such a long time and there was no other player other than Ernie who experienced what I am about to experience, that made it more personal,' said Greene. 'It is indeed special to have your number retired. To have it retired by the Pittsburgh Steelers, who won't do that...if you have done one in the history of our experience, it means you don't do it.
"'I started to think I am really blessed to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. To have Chuck (Noll) as my coach, Art (Rooney), Sr., Dan, Art II as the owners. That made it all happen; the players, the scouting department. Without the players, coach, ownership we are not talking about the retirement of my jersey. I was not alone achieving this goal. For it to happen someone has to say yes, and I am so pleased that Dan and Art would think enough of me to do that. That is saying an awful lot.'"
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