Greene roast raised money for the Mel Blount Youth Home
June 2003

The Mel Blount Youth Home is dedicated to helping young male victims of child abuse and neglect. Located south of Pittsburgh in Washington County, the Mel Blount Youth Home has given hope and turned around the lives of thousands of youngsters since it was opened.

On Friday, May 30, the Mel Blunt Youth Home held its annual All-Star Celebrity Roast, and the event honored Joe Greene. Attended by 1,000 people, the Roast was emceed by Rocky Bleier, and speakers included Lynn Swann, Andy Russell and Randy Grossman. Also in attendance were Hall of Fame members Mel Blount, Chuck Noll, John Stallworth and Dan Rooney. The event was organized by TiAnda Blount, Mel's wife.
A star-studded cast of Steelers turned out to roast Joe Greene on May 30 at the Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel. The event raised money for the Mel Blount Youth Home.

While one part of the evening was devoted to roasting Greene, another part honored him and what he meant to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Included in that portion was a video that traced Greene's arrival in Pittsburgh as a rookie in 1969 and his rise to becoming the best player in the history of the Steelers franchise.

The following is the script that accompanied that video:

He arrived in 1969, the newest member of the losingest franchise in NFL history, and what greeted him was not even apathy, but hostility.

Joe Who was the headline in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the day after the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted a North Texas State defensive tackle named Joe Greene, and that headline was an accurate description of what the citys football fans thought of new Coach Chuck Nolls first No. 1 draft pick.

To understand what the Steelers were at that time and how they were perceived by the public, these words written in 1969 by Pittsburgh Press columnist Roy McHugh tell the tale. Wrote McHugh: The first thing a Steeler must learn is how to lose.

Oh, how the Steelers lost. During the 36 years that spanned their entrance into the NFL in 1933 until the day Noll was introduced as the 12th coach in franchise history, the Steelers had managed to finish with a winning record just eight times. Never a champion. Never even in the game that decided the champion.

But Joe Greene never learned the lesson that Roy McHugh considered remedial. Coaches always talk about how players reveal themselves in difficult times, and there were a lot of those for the Steelers in Greenes rookie year of 1969.

The Steelers were 1-4 after a 42-31 whipping in Cleveland when Gene Hickerson, a many-time Pro Bowl guard for the Browns, offered this opinion on the Steelers rookie. That No. 75, hes going to be great. Hes as strong as a bull and so blasted quick. I dont know how anyones going to handle him in a year or two. Believe me, I dont know how you handle him now. I havent seen a better tackle all year.

The Steelers kept losing, but Greene kept impressing people. They dropped to 1-5, and while some of the Redskins players complained about dirty play, Vince Lombardi, by then Washingtons coach, dismissed that stuff and said simply, Hes a real good football player.

The Steelers were 1-8 after losing the rematch to Cleveland when Browns quarterback Bill Nelsen moaned about being worked over by that animal rookie on the defensive line.

The Minnesota Vikings stopped by on their way to a trip to the Super Bowl and laid a 52-14 whipping on the Steelers, but guard Jim Vellone preferred to talk about Greene. I always thought Alan Page was the best, said Vellone about a teammate who was changing into street clothes just a few yards away. But Greene can do things that Page couldnt do.

Two weeks later, after seeing his Cowboys escape Pitt Stadium with a 10-7 win, Coach Tom Landry summed up what the Steelers had known for a couple of months. Joe Greenes as good a football player as has come into this league in years.

That season ended miserably for the Steelers. One win, 13 losses. For his part, the rookie Joe Greene let frustration kick in too often and was ejected from a couple of games. Because of that, he was mocked by opponents for not being able to stay on the field, chided in the newspapers for doing things that hurt his team. Joe Greene was a special talent, but his immaturity was threatening his career. Instead of allowing that to derail him, Joe Greene grew up, and by doing so he proved there was more about him that was special than just his talent.

Flash forward to 1972. No longer losers, the Steelers are looking to outlive their past in one season. They open by beating the Oakland Raiders, and come Halloween their record is 5-2, but there still are some who believe theyre just masquerading as contenders once again.

After a 30-0 stomping of the Browns at Three Rivers Stadium on Dec. 3, the Steelers need to win to get in position to clinch the AFC Central Division, the first title of any kind in franchise history. They will look for that win in Houston against a 1-11 Oilers team, but it quickly becomes apparent that this Steelers dream has all the makings of another nightmare.

Before the game is 15 minutes old, there are more injured Steelers on the sideline than there are points on the scoreboard. Bruce Van Dyke, Gerry Mullins, Ron Shanklin, Terry Bradshaw, L.C. Greenwood, Craig Hanneman, Sam Davis and Jim Clack are injured. Thats four offensive lineman, the starting quarterback, the leading receiver, and two starting defensive linemen. Done for the day, or in the case of Mullins, so sick as to be barely able to stand. The halftime score was 3-3, and to the Steelers, the Oilers had to be looking like a reincarnation of the 1962 Green Bay Packers.

Somebody had to step up, and that somebody was Joe Greene. He finished the game with five sacks. He blocked one field goal attempt. Then with the Steelers holding a tenuous 6-3 lead in the fourth quarter and completely unable to muster any offense, Greene burst into the backfield to dump running back Fred Willis for a 12-yard loss, force a fumble and recover it himself at the Houston 13-yard line. Roy Gerelas short field goal clinched the result, and the Steelers had turned a corner.

On the charter flight home that night, team captain Andy Russell made this announcement: After much consideration, we decided to award the game ball to a guy who is so outstanding that much of the time his play is taken for granted. We are giving the game ball to Joe Greene.

In what might have been the Steelers most critical game to date, its best player had carried them to victory. And so it began. The Steelers were learning how to win, and they were well on the way to becoming the most dominant team in NFL history.

Four championships. Holding the Minnesota Vikings to 17 yards rushing and forcing five turnovers in Super Bowl IX. Sacking Roger Staubach seven times and intercepting three of his passes in Super Bowl X. Pulling themselves from a 1-4 hole in 1976 on the strength of a defense that allowed 28 points and posted five shutouts over the final nine weeks. Winning when they were supposed to. Winning when they had to. Those Steelers did it all, and for a long time their best player was Joe Greene.

When Chuck Noll took over in 1969, he knew many of the players he inherited werent good enough, but he also learned quickly that the first one he drafted was good enough. And so it was that Joe Greene became the example. Look at him. Watch him. Play like him, and well all get to sip the champagne.

When Joe Greene retired after the 1981 season, after 10 Pro Bowls and 6 conference championship games and four Super Bowl rings, he thanked the Steelers for allowing him to become a man. Steelers fans should thank Joe Greene for helping make their team the greatest of all time.