LATROBE, Pa. -- Newly minted Pro Football Hall of Famer Kevin Greene played three seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers more than 20 years ago, but his name still comes up around these parts.
Even now, when inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky evaluates pass-rushers in the NFL draft, he wonders whether they'll rush with power or finish plays like Greene once did. Greene mastered this move, Olsavsky might say in a film study.
"We still reap the benefits of that today because that's what we're looking for," said Olsavsky, who was teammates with Greene in Pittsburgh. "KG was always on fire."
As Greene enters the Hall on Saturday in Canton, Ohio, he might be best remembered as a Steeler despite playing just one-fifth of his 15-year career with the team. With a combined 13 sacks in his last two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, Greene needed a safe landing strip. He found it in Pittsburgh, and responded with 35.5 sacks in three seasons for the Steelers' loaded defense. Greene recently called his time in Pittsburgh the "pinnacle" of his career, and he has chosen the Steelers for his Hall of Fame ring ceremony.
Greene's 160 career sacks place him third in NFL history, but in 1993, Steelers players didn't know what to expect.
Until they saw him in action.
"He far outdistanced our expectations for what we expected," said Carnell Lake, now the Steelers' defensive-backs coach. "No one at the time knew he was going to be a Hall of Famer. He came in and established himself right away with double-digit sacks. He had a great work ethic. His focus and attention to detail was good."
In 1996, Greene followed former Steelers assistant Dom Capers to the then-expansion Carolina Panthers and recorded 14.5 sacks.
But for a time, Greene was like something built out of a Steelers lab. He was known as physical and accountable. He would outwork anybody but still treated the game with the joy of a Pop Warner player, Olsavsky said. Sack numbers were personal because they meant he knew how to finish plays. The Steelers didn't try to change him. They put him on the left edge opposite Greg Lloyd and let them both go off.
"KG was one of the rare people who can come in and it's like a blood transfusion," Olsavsky said. "His blood is the same as ours. When he came here, he was like, 'Oh,' and it kind of revitalized him a little bit. [Offenses] knew what they were getting. They were getting fastball. They couldn't stop it."
Lake would have loved to share a Super Bowl XXX victory with Greene. Most Steelers defenders from that 1995 team feel they should have defeated the Dallas Cowboys that year. But Lake is proud that Greene identifies as a Steeler first, even though he played his first eight seasons with the Rams.
"There's something special about the Steelers," Lake said. "The atmosphere, the environment, the history, the legacies that the players of the '70s, Super Bowl teams, they kind of got it started for us. ... The game is changing and the Steelers have to change along with it, but for some of the fundamentals of the game, hard-nosed, tough football, I don't think that will ever change."