Tag Archives: Pittsburgh Steelers

The curtain further frays

The Steel Curtain.

Any fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and most fans of the National Football League, knows the name.

First used in 1971, the Steel Curtain refers to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive line during their 1970s dynasty.

Pittsburgh Steelers fans of that generation can name the players. From 1972-1977, four remarkable athletes lined up together:

steelcurtainbanner#78 Dwight White
#63 Ernie Holmes
#75 Joe Greene
#68 L.C. Greenwood

Any discussion of the great defensive lines in NFL history has to include the Steel Curtain. Most discussions conclude that it was the greatest the league has seen.

Over the years, the curtain has frayed.

Ernie Holmes died in a one-car accident on January 17, 2008.

Dwight White died following complications after surgery almost six months later on June 6, 2008.

Today, L.C. Greenwood died of natural causes.

The Steelers drafted Greenwood in 1969, the same draft in which they selected Greene. He made the Pro Bowl six times and was an All-Pro in 1974 and 1975.

Greenwood played on all four of the Steeler teams to win the Super Bowl during the 1970s. He batted down two passes in Super Bowl IX. After the game it was said that when Vikings quarterback threw his helmet at his locker in frustration, Greenwood batted it down. Greenwood was named to the Super Bowl Silver Anniversary Team in 1991 and in 2007 he was named to the Steelers All-Time team.

Greenwood should be in the NFL Hall of Fame. He was a finalist in 2005 and 2006 but was not elected. Eight players from the 1970s grace the Hall. Some say the numbers explain why Greenwood and Donnie Shell and perhaps some others have failed to win election. Hopefully the Seniors Committee will rectify that situation.

While he remains to be inducted into Canton, L.C. Greenwood will remain forever in the hearts of Steelers’ fans.

Thanks for the memories, L.C.

Rest in peace.

See you along the Trail.

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Wow! Thanks Mean Joe!

Pittsburgh_Steelers2The commercial has iconic status.

Joe Greene, hall of fame defensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers, limps down a ramp toward the locker room. Battered and weary, he carries his jersey draped over his shoulder.

A child offers asks Joe if he needs help. Joe tries to avoid the child. The child persists, offering Joe his Coke.

Joe accepts. Taking the Coke in his massive hand, he downs it in one gulp.

Joe starts down the ramp. A bit confused, and perhaps disappointed, the child says good-bye and moves toward the stadium.

Joe stops, turns and calls: “Hey kid. Catch.” He tosses his jersey to the child whose eyes go wide as he pulls in the precious jersey. Awe fills his voice as he says: “Wow! Thanks Mean Joe!”

Those of us who inhabit Steelers Nation have said those words many times over the years. Today, they carry special meaning.

When he arrived in Pittsburgh in 1969, people asked “Joe who?” Chuck Noll made a defensive tackle from North Texas State University the fourth pick of the 1969 draft and the first pick of his coaching career. Most folks in Pittsburgh had never heard of the school or of Joe Greene despite his outstanding college career. Joe quickly taught us to know and admire him becoming one of the dominant players of his era and the cornerstone of the Steel Curtain.

The Steelers had never won a championship when Joe arrived. Now six Lombardi Trophies decorate Heinz Field. Joe Greene anchored the defensive line on four championship teams. He served in the front office when the Steelers won the other two.

Fans referred to the “same old Steelers” with an air of resignation when he arrived. Today, a .500 season marks a bitter disappointment.

No one player makes a team. But few players have played such key role in transforming a franchise as Joe Greene did.

He forced offenses to adapt to account for him: double teaming him, triple teaming him, still failing to stop him. He played with a fervor that led by example and raised the play of those around him.

The outstanding North Texas State University defense earned the nickname, “Mean Green.” The name followed Joe to Pittsburgh and stuck to him. “Mean Joe Greene.”

At moments he lived into the nickname, particularly in his early years when the Steelers’ losing seasons frustrated him. He reportedly spat at Dick Butkus in one game. He tossed his helmet into the stands in another. His intensity drew the team together and led others to adopt a similar attitude and match it with their play.

Of course, the fire burned all the years. Late in his career, as the Steelers faced elimination in the playoffs, officials ejected Joe for punching an opponent.

When he retired, for the first time, as a player, he became the defensive line coach under his former head coach Chuck Noll. Noll’s retirement brought speculation that the Steelers might hire Joe as the head coach. It did not happen. This resulted in a second retirement from the Steelers organization. The new coach, Bill Cowher, did not keep Joe on the staff.

Steelers Nation found it hard to watch at times, but Joe spent a few years coaching with the Dolphins and Cardinals. After the Cardinals let him go in 2004, the Steelers created a position for Joe in their scouting and player personnel department.  He served for nine years before retiring for the third, and he says final, time today.

Player. Hall of Famer. Coach. Executive. As Steeler President Art Rooney said:

“There are very few people in the history of the NFL who have had a greater impact on one franchise than Joe Greene has had on the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

Wow! Thanks Mean Joe!

See you along the Trail.

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Understanding

Sometimes understanding comes from painful experience.

Sometimes understanding comes after hard work and significant reflection.

Sometimes understanding eludes me.

Sometimes I fail to have even a glimmer of what it is I want to understand.

But sometimes … sometimes … understanding comes in a surprising flash of insight that almost carries a physical impact.

I have started an effort at self-care. Again. I have lost track years ago of how many times I have been down this path.

It involves a change in my food choices, a reduction in the amount I consume, and an increase in activity. This marks the third day. I did not walk as much as I want because of allergy issues, but other than that, all has gone well … until about an hour or so ago.

Cravings for chocolate and chips and crackers and cookies and all sorts of other junk food filled my head. I exchanged some text messages with a friend and that helped. I stayed home and did not wander over to the all too convenient convenience store to buy enough junk food to put the owner’s children through college. Still I felt hungry. To be more precise, I felt that I felt hungry.

Before I could leave, understanding came upon me in an instant.

I had the Steelers game on my computer; I had the BYU – Washington State game on the television.

Football.

When I watch football or when I listen to football or when I do both at the same time, I eat. I eat not because I am hungry but because eating is what I do when following football. All those parties and gatherings through the years have taught me that when the game is on, so is the feed bag.

Tonight that insight has helped me refrain from mindless overeating. Hopefully that insight will serve me will throughout this year’s football season.

See you along the Trail.

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Football is coming

I purchased my NFL Audio Pass tonight.

The Steelers play on Thursday. It is preseason. But it is football.

See you along the Trail.

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Farewell Hines

Hines Ward blocks for Rashard Mendenhall

Image via Wikipedia

The NFL will not be the same. Of course the NFL is never the same. It continues to change and evolve as do we all.

And it appeared that this change was coming for some time.

But the Steelers released Hines Ward yesterday. And I am sad.

I give thanks for all the years – all the smiles – all the thrills.

I wish Hines well. And I hope he does not come back to haunt us too badly.

See you along the Trail.

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Excuses? Explanations?

I have fallen way behind in terms of Ghost Ranch images.

I have fallen way behind in terms of monitoring the death penalty.

I have fallen behind. There are reasons. The fact that the Steelers lost and fell out of the playoffs is not among them. At least not on a conscious level.

We hosted a two-week Doctor of Ministry class at work. The class met from 9 to 5 each day. The evening then became a time to catch up.

On Monday, I came to Louisville for a week of meetings. Evening again served as a time to do what could not be done during the meeting – well, at least some of what could not be done..

I remain so far behind that I no longer know how far behind I am. I no longer know what it would look like to not be behind.

But I got a bunch done today so I am taking some time tonight to work on the blog – at least this post. I guess you will discover tomorrow if I have added anything else.

I have thrown on the old Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan movies – from when he was young. Mindless entertainment. Although now and then when I realize that James Earl Jones really is in Conan the Barbarian, I have to wonder why. The values and the acting and the plot and the dialogue does make me, what word do I want? Oh yes. Grimace. It makes me grimace from time to time. But it does help pass the time.

Hopefully I am back for a bit.

See you along the Trail.

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Thank you, Chris Hoke

Pittsburgh Steelers helmet

Image via Wikipedia

When you play in the middle of the defensive line of a professional football team, people rarely notice you. Until you do something wrong. Commit a penalty. Allow a running back to slip by you and begin a long gain. And everybody knows your name – at least for a moment. Failure proves more noteworthy than success.

When you play as a backup player in the middle of the defensive line, people notice you even less.

People recognize the names of linebackers – Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert, Lawrence Taylor, Ray Lewis.

People recognize the names of defensive backs – Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, Ronnie Lott, Ken Houston.

Say the name Chris Hoke and see how people respond.

Some, particularly members of Steelers Nation, may know that Hoke has served as the back-up nose tackle, behind Casey Hampton, for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He entered the league in 2001 – the same year as Hampton.The Steelers picked Hampton with a number one draft choice; Hoke signed after the as an undrafted free agent.

Hampton became the starter, taking on the task of clogging the middle of the defensive line, occupying blockers, filling the hole.

Hoke became the backup. He entered games to give Hampton a rest. And, when Hampton could not start, Hoke did.

Eighteen times over the past ten years, Chris Hoke began a game as the starting nose tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Seventeen times, the team left the field with a victory. 17-1. Quite a record.

Hoke filled his other role just as well. When Hampton rested, the defense remained strong with no drop-off in performance.

Chris Hoke had a job to do. He did it well.

In October, a neck injury essentially ended Hoke’s season. He remained on the roster although he did not play after the injury occurred.

The announcement came on December 6 that his injury required surgery. The team placed him on injured reserve on December 8.

Some believe this surgery will end his career.

If it does or if it doesn’t, this seems an appropriate moment to say, “Chris, I hope your recovery is swift and sure.”

It is also time, past time, to say “Thank you, Chris Hoke.”

Thank you for doing your job and for doing it well.

Thank you for not needing the limelight – but for doing what you were asked and paid to do.

Thank you for being a professional.

And thank you to all the Chris Hokes who make up this world.

All who work – who work hard – who work well – who work with little recognition – who work to make life livable, more pleasant, and more enjoyable.

To all of you – to each of you – my thanks.

See you along the Trail.

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