Friday, January 28, 2011

Flower Mound's Mean Joe Greene: Current Steelers carrying my legacy

Dallas Morning News
Published 28 January 2011 12:18 AM

Steeler defensive tackle Joe Greene displays his number 75 jersey after he announced his retirement (2/10/82). Greene was the foundation used by coach Chuck Noll to build four Super Bowl Champion teams.

PITTSBURGH — Mean Joe Greene , a Pro Football Hall of Famer and founding member of the Pittsburgh Steelers' Steel Curtain defenses of the 1970s, endorses the current Steelers D.

From linebacker James Harrison — "he's still on a mission," Greene said — to bushy-haired safety Troy Polamalu , whom Greene complimented as a throwback player who lets his playmaking do his talking, the contemporary shutdown defense reflects the modus operandi the Steelers' empire was built on. The unit has lifted the team into Super Bowl XLV against Green Bay on Feb. 6 at Cowboys Stadium.

"I'm a fan of theirs," said Greene, a native Texan who played at North Texas and lives in Flower Mound . The former defensive tackle serves as a scout for the Steelers, with whom he won four Super Bowls in six seasons in the late '70s.

Current Steelers are relentlessly reminded about Pittsburgh's snarling defensive greatness of Greene's Era. Playing in their third Super Bowl in six seasons, it's something they embrace.

"We want to uphold that tradition somewhat," Harrison said after a recent practice at the Steelers' snowy South Side headquarters.

"So far, so good," cornerback Ike Taylor said. "We know the guys in the 1970s were mean sons of guns. We're trying to do that the same way.

"It's about being physical. Coach [Mike Tomlin] always says throw the first punch, lay the first hit."

The Steelers led the NFL in rushing defense in 2010 , allowing 62.8 yards per game — impressive even for them in their specialty. They ranked first in scoring defense (14.5 points per game) and sacks (48), second in total defense (276.8 yards per game), third in takeaways (35) and 12th against the pass (214.1 yards per game).

In the AFC championship win over the New York Jets, the Steelers withstood the Jets' second-half surge in part because of a defensive touchdown late in the first half and a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter.

In the divisional playoff against Baltimore, the Steelers forced three turnovers in the third quarter to spur a come-from-behind win.

Tomlin is a former defensive coordinator. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, 73, in the seventh season of his second stint with the Steelers, entered the Hall of Fame in August. The whole team took the bus ride to Canton, Ohio for the induction.

Beloved for his zone-blitzing 3-4 scheme and consistently strong defenses, LeBeau received tributes from players and fans. A poster on Carson Street features his face accompanied by the word "Blitz."

Harrison, Polamalu and defensive end Brett Keisel were chosen for the Pro Bowl. Harrison, who was fined four times for a total of $125,000 during the season for dangerous hits, registered 101/2 sacks and 100 tackles. Polamalu had seven interceptions despite missing two games with an ankle injury.

To win the franchise's seventh Super Bowl title, the current Steelers will have to limit Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his deep fleet of receivers. Rodgers is "hot as fish grease right now," linebacker James Farrior said. "We've all got a lot of confidence in Dick LeBeau that he's going to come up with something."

The secondary has been called the Steelers' defensive weakness, which has riled some players. Well, here's the chance to clear it up.

"I'm done being disrespected, I'm done even caring," safety Ryan Clark said. "Maybe the other six or seven people on the field are that much better than everybody else that they can overcome us being so terrible. Maybe we're all right. Either way, it doesn't matter.

"This group can say it's played two or three Super Bowls together. I think we're doing all right."

Another Super Bowl ring would indicate that's the case, moving the Steelers closer to what those vaunted defenses of the past accomplished. Greene, who said he wants the Steelers to play well so much that he physically feels the ups and downs of games, will be at Cowboys Stadium to take it all in.

"It's unfair to us, and it's unfair to them," Greene said of comparing the eras. "I'm so happy that they're here and can get a third ring. ... If this group can put their third up, then we can start seriously talking about it. ... They are carrying the legacy further, and that's what's wonderful about it."

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