Joe Greene: Steelers Pick In '69 Draft Was Turning Point

David KlinglerCorrespondent IApril 15, 2009

CANTON, OH - AUGUST 5:  Joe Greene and owner Dan Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers pose on the field during the AFC-NFC Pro Football Hall of Fame Game against the New Orleans Saints at Fawcett Stadium August 5, 2007 in Canton, Ohio.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

With their first pick in the 1969 NFL Draft, the Steelers select Joe Greene, North Texas State. 

Joe who?

That was the reaction in Pittsburgh when Chuck Noll used his very first pick as the new head coach on the little known Greene.  Joe wasn't too thrilled about the idea either.

He didn't like losing, and for almost 40 years that is all the Steelers did.  That was about to change.

With his first pick, Noll had selected the cornerstone of what was to become a ferocious defense.  Over the next several years, Noll masterfully drafted the pieces for his dynasty.

The 1974 draft was particularly efficient, with Noll picking no less than four future Hall of Famers.  But, it all started with Joe Greene.

Right from the start, teammates realized Greene was special.  In training camp that first year, he dominated the Steelers' annual "Oklahoma drills" in which a defensive lineman and an offensive lineman face-off man to man.  He was simply unblockable.

Joe brought a toughness to the Steelers that had been lacking.  His temper was fierce, and he was ejected from several games his rookie year.  He still managed to win NFL Rookie of the Year.

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Greene once spat in the face of the mighty Dick Butkus.  Butkus just turned and walked away.  He knew better.  Notice had been served, the Steelers would no longer be intimidated.

In a late season game in 1972 against Houston, Greene had a historic performance.  The Steelers were trying to win their first division title in their history, and they needed this game badly.

The team was struggling, and Joe knew he had to take matters into his own hands.  He had an incredible game, registering five sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and even blocked a field goal.  He carried the Steelers on his back for the victory.

Greene had a strong will to win that was unmatched, and his teammates fed off of him.  Joe went to 10 pro bowls in his illustrious career.  He won four super bowls and has a bust in the Hall of Fame.

He helped the Steelers win their first championship of any kind when they won the division in 1972.  Two years later, they won their first super bowl.

And to think, it all started with the Steelers' first pick of the 1969 NFL Draft.  Joe who?

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