Former Pittsburgh Steelers legend L.C. Greenwood died Sunday at the age of 67. The saddening news was confirmed by the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office, via The Associated Press (h/t USAToday.com).
Greenwood, who terrorized opposing offenses as a member of the Steelers' vaunted "Steel Curtain" defense in the 1970s, died of kidney failure at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ray Fittipaldo.
Steelers chairman Dan Rooney released a statement regarding Greenwood's passing: "L.C. was one of the most beloved Steelers during the most successful period in team history and he will be missed by the entire organization. He will forever be remembered for what he meant to the Steelers both on and off the field."
A tenacious defensive end whose NFL career spanned 12 years, Greenwood received Pro Bowl honors on six occasions and helped Pittsburgh win four Super Bowl championships in the late 1970s.
Former Steelers scout Bill Nunn had nothing but praise for Greenwood on and off the field and compared him to other Hall of Fame defenders, per Fittipaldo:
L.C. was a quiet guy, he didn't attempt to position himself as the center of attention even though he played an integral part of that front four. I used to call him and Jack Ham the quiet assassins because neither one of them would say a word, or put on a show for you. They both just went about their business quietly. But when they got on the field, as far as playing ability, playing aggressively, being tough, they were both in the same category as any of the Hall of Famers. He had a lot of qualities of the Hall of Famers and probably should be in there.
A two-time finalist for the Hall of Fame in 2005 and 2006, Greenwood is still on the outside looking in at football's greatest individual honor.
Greenwood, who was born in Canton, Miss. and went on to play college football at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, was selected 238th overall by Pittsburgh in the 10th round of the 1969 NFL draft. He appeared in 170 games for the Steelers over the course of his career, recording 73.5 sacks and 14 forced fumbles.
Though the number is unofficial because the NFL didn't begin tracking sacks until after Greenwood's playing career was over in 1982, his 73.5 sacks rank second in Steelers history behind only Jason Gildon.
Nunn added that in today's NFL, there's no way Greenwood would have fallen to the No. 238 pick in the draft, per Fittipaldo:
If you look at how the game has changed in terms of scouting and the way black players are viewed today, [Mr. Greenwood slipping to bottom of draft] would have never happened. He would have been a high pick. Some teams may not have liked his style, but someone would have grabbed him for his athleticism. He really was smooth and he was cool with those gold shoes and he was as easygoing as they come, but he really was a tough guy, as tough as they come.
Greenwood will be remembered for teaming with Joe Greene, Dwight White and Ernie Holmes to form arguably the most dominant defensive line of all time.
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