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Paying Homage To Joe Greene

By Beth Myncin

The City of Champions, Sixburgh, Blitzburgh or whatever “name” you have for the city of Pittsburgh, it is a place surrounded by the remembrance of our sports greats. Coming into Pittsburgh International Airport, one of the first things you will notice is the large Franco Harris statue welcoming you to the city. Outside of CONSOL Energy Center, an over-sized statue of Mario Lemieux reminds us all of the man who saved Pittsburgh hockey.

We pay homage to those that have paved the way to Stanley Cups, Super Bowl Championships, and World Series rings. With our inherent need to immortalize those who have changed the way we view the games we know and love, how does Joe Greene factor into this?

On November 2nd, against the Baltimore Ravens, “Mean Joe” Greene’s number will be retired. He is only the second player, behind Ernie Stautner, to be honored that way. President Art Rooney II explained the decision stating: “Coming up on the 40th anniversary of the first Super Bowl, we felt it was a perfect time.”

This is a decision that should not come as a surprise to fans. Greene played for the Steelers from 1969 to 1981, totaling 13 seasons that included 10 Pro Bowl nominations, 4 Super Bowls and he was twice named the AP Defensive Player of the Year.

Given the notion that we honor those that have shined in the sports world, does that then mean that Joe deserves his own statue? After all, his selection in the 1969 draft has been widely considered a turning point for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970’s. Greene was an instrumental piece in the Steel Curtain on the 1970’s and a key player for the defense. He is a huge part of a team that is widely considered one of the best in NFL history. Don’t these accolades mean that he too deserves to see himself immortalized in the city that has made him their own?

I would like to think so. He is a huge part of the reason we can call ourselves Sixburgh. He played with a particular recklessness, a hunger, so to speak. He was passionate, and lived and breathed the game of football. He has more than earned this.

I can imagine walking into the gates of Heinz Field, greeted by a huge statue of Joe, a constant reminder of what he gifted to us. What we brag about. What we watch videos to remind ourselves of. You might not have had the chance to see his contributions live but you can remember hearing the stories about the man who is partially responsible for the hard hitting, no holds defense we watch today. A guy that is a critical part of our black and gold history.

I am a person that believes that we should pay respect to those that have changed things for the better. Joe Greene is a perfect example of this belief. Retiring his number is a good start, but our end game should be a permanent statue to honor what he has done for Steeler Nation.

A man that bleeds black and gold.

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