Kevin Greene Honored to Have Been a Pittsburgh Steeler

CANTON, Ohio – Kevin Greene spent only three of his 15 professional football season wearing the black and gold of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it may as well have been all 15 seasons for the outside linebacker who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Aug. 6.

(Photo of Kevin Greene. Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers)

Greene’s experience with the Steelers was so great that he approached Steelers owner Dan Rooney at the Super Bowl just after being elected to the Hall of Fame to see if it would be possible for him to receive his Hall of Fame Ring at a Steelers game this coming season.

“I approached Mr. Rooney after I was selected, I saw him the following day at a Super Bowl function, and I just told him that as I looked back on my career of 15 years quite honestly the time of my life and of my wife’s were the three years a a Steelers,” Greene said. “We related to the community. We love the city. I loved playing in Three Rivers (Stadium) and the energy that was there. I loved all my brothers that I played with and still keep in contact with them. I told Mr. Rooney, if there was anyway, I would love to come to Heinz Field and receive my ring because I really bleed black and gold. It was the pinnacle of my career. We just crushed people. We had the right attitude on defense. We had weapons all around and Hall of Famers like Rod Woodson and Dermontti Dawson.”

Rooney and the Steelers were more than willing to accommodate Greene, and the Steelers will honor him during the Oct. 2 nationally televised game with the Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field.

“I am honored he would accept that and have me come back and give me the ring at Heinz Field,” Greene said. “Once a Steeler, always a Steeler.

“I have been approached by the Rams organization (the team Greene played for from 1985-92) to do something similar, but at this point it is understood that I am really going to receive my ring at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.”

Greene had perhaps three of his finest seasons in Pittsburgh from 1993 to 1995 racking up 35 ½ sacks, 184 tackles, forcing six fumbles and intercepting one pass during the regular season. He added another 1 ½ sacks in postseason play helping the Steelers to the 1994 AFC Championship game and the 1995 Super Bowl. He was named to two all-NFL teams and two All-AFC teams in 1994 when he led the league with 14 sacks, one of two times in his career he led in sacks.

But the one thing that haunts about his time in Pittsburgh was he was unable to help the Steelers win what would have been their fifth Super Bowl at the time. The team was upset by the San Diego Chargers at Three Rivers Stadium in the 1994 AFC Championship Game and then lost the 1995 Super Bowl to the Dallas Cowboys.

“That will stay with me for a lifetime, it will stay with us for a lifetime,” Greene said. “We had the right brotherhood to really do something special. For us not to bring the Lombardi Trophy there to Pittsburgh and Steeler Nation is a sad deal. That will haunt me. That was everything we were playing for. We just played so well together on that defense. I love all my brothers there and they know it. And I just loved playing in front of Steelers Nation. There’s a sense that I let them down. That will always be with me.”

While the Steelers never won the ultimate prize in Greene’s three years with the team, he, along with his teammates, left a lasting legacy on the franchise winning 32 games in three years.

“We kicked a lot of (butt),” Greene said. “We didn’t win the big one, but we kicked a lot of (butt) and it was fun. That’s as good as it gets playing with the Steelers at Three Rivers with the crowd going nuts.”

Greene came to Pittsburgh as part of the first true unrestricted free agency class in the NFL following the 1992 season, and he said it was an easy decision.

“It is a recurring theme in my life,” Greene said. “The good lord always seemed to orchestrate my steps the right way and put me in the right place at the right time. One example of that was in 1992 we had a coaching change (with the Rams). John Robinson was fired and they brough in chuck Knox and he brought in a new defensive coordinator and staff who played a 4-3 defense. I was a pure outside backer in a 3-4, so it was a little like sticking a square peg in a round hole. I played that year out as a 4-3 outside linebacker, but I knew for me to have the impact on the game that I really enjoyed in my first seasons with the Rams I knew my best contribution would be more as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense that drops into coverage occasionally, plays the run honestly and rushes the passer.

“It just so happened the Steelers were going to lose their starting left outside linebacker Jerrol Williams, who played opposite of Greg Lloyd. The reality was the Steelers needed a left outside linebacker in their 3-4. It was a perfect fit. Coach (Bill) Cowher picked me up at the airport, and you go through the Fort Pitt Tunnel and boom there is the city of Pittsburgh in all its majesty and glory. That’s just a cool look of a city, and there is Three Rivers Stadium to the left. It’s just a great looking city. And then Coach Cowher puts me in front of (defensive coordinator) Dom (Capers) and he says he is going to put me back in my old position off going after the quarterback and crushing the quarter. I knew within 15 minutes of talking to Coach Cowher and Coach Capers that I had found my home. It wasn’t about money. It was just finding a place that played this defense. I knew the history of Pittsburgh and the fact it was a rich history of kicking people’s (butts) and winning championships. And I heard the fans were phenomenal. I was supposed to go to the Redskins the following day. I bailed on it. I know it pissed off a lot of people in Washington, but I just knew Pittsburgh was the place I needed to be. It was the right place at the right time. With Cowher and Capers and Dick LeBauer and Marvin Lewis as coaches, it was just phenomenal.”

Greene’s relationship with Capers was so good that he followed Capers to Carolina in 1996, a year after Capers had become head coach of the expansion Panthers. Capers then helped Greene land a job as an assistant coach with the Green Bay Packers, where he finally won the elusive Super Bowl ring, ironically against the Steelers in 2010.

The relationships is so strong that Greene chose Capers to give his introduction at the Hall of Fame Ceremony.

“I think the presenter should really be someone who had a remarkable impact on your life and really affected your life the most,” Greene said. “I was down between (his late brother) Keith, my dad and Dom. Dom brought me to Pittsburgh and put me in a position to have an impact in games. When he was the head coach with the Carolina Panthers he brought me to the new Panthers and put me in a position to impact the game. He was extremely instrumental in bringing me to Green Bay as the outside linebacker coach and put me in a position to teach others how to impact the game. He has had a tremendous impact on my football career and my family and for providing for my family over the years. I have known him and his wife, Karen, since 1993 and just love them both.”

NOTES – Greene played for four teams in his NFL career spending 1985-92 with the Los Angeles Rams, then 1993-95 with the Steelers, 1996 and 1998-99 with the Panthers and 1997 with the San Francisco 49ers. He recorded 160 career sacks, the third-most in NFL history behind Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198) and the most by a linebacker – sacks became an official stat in 1982. He was named to All-Pro teams in 1989, 1994 and 1996. He was also named to five Pro Bowls, the 1990s Team of the Decade and was the NEA and UPI NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1996 while being named the NFLPA AFC Linebacker of the Year in 1994 and the NFC Linebacker of the Year in 1996 and 1998. His league-leading 14 ½ sacks with the Panthers in 1996 made him the oldest player to lead the NFL in sacks at age 34.

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