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On This Day: Steelers Draft ‘Mean’ Joe Greene in 1969



Steelers Joe Greene Franco Harris

Before 1969, the Pittsburgh Steelers were not the same franchise that we have come to know them as today.

The six-time Super Bowl champions spent the first 35-or-so years of their existence as an also-ran and an afterthought in the pre-merger NFL, but as the league grew, the Steelers made key changes to turn the franchise around.

One of the major ones was the hiring of Chuck Noll as head coach on Jan. 27, 1969, after Penn State head coach Joe Paterno had turned the Steelers down.

The next day, Jan. 28, 1969, Noll made one of the most impactful additions in the franchise’s history, when he drafted Joe Green with the No. 4 overall selection in the 1969 NFL/AFL common draft.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editor Al Abrams had to defend the pick, saying he had to reason with several that telephoned upset about the Pittsburgh choice.

“Certainly, quite a number of the Steelers’ first round choices turned out to be duds,” Abrams wrote. “Joe Greene could be another. All we go by is what knowledgeable football men Tull us. One who knows the business said yesterday, ‘Greene was on practically everybody’s All-America team.'”

Greene went on to become the most dominant player in the franchise’s history, one of two players to have his jersey retried, and is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Greene celebrated his 75th birthday in 2021.