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Joe Greene only 2nd player in Steelers history to get number retired

| Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 2:42 p.m.

Joe Greene was more than a number to the Steelers. He arguably was the biggest name in franchise history.

To honor that name — and the four-Super Bowl legacy Greene established with his Hall of Fame defensive line play, leadership and forceful presence — the Steelers will retire his No. 75 during their Nov. 2 game against Baltimore.

“I'm overwhelmed,” Greene said. “I'm very surprised. I almost fell out of my seat.”

Greene is the first Steelers player in 50 years — and only the second in team history — to be honored in that fashion. Defensive lineman Ernie Stautner's No. 70 was retired in 1964.

“Retiring jerseys is not something the Steelers do,” said Greene, who retired from his Steelers scouting job last year. “I've never seen a championship banner at our stadium. We've won more Super Bowls than anybody … and we don't flaunt it.”

The Steelers held off retiring another number until now, the 40th anniversary of their first Super Bowl season, because as team president Art Rooney II said, “Where do you draw the line?”

Nine players reached the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, from the Steelers 1970s dynasty that won four Super Bowls in six seasons.

Five players' numbers haven't been worn since — Greene, Terry Bradshaw (No. 12), Franco Harris (No. 32), Mike Webster (No. 52) and Jack Lambert (No. 58) — and Jack Ham's No. 59 was worn only once. But none of their numbers officially was retired until now.

“We felt this was the perfect time,” said Rooney, who added that other players could be honored in the future.

“Man, it's awesome,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “I can say I was there when we retired Joe Greene's number.”

Greene was the first player drafted after Chuck Noll was hired as head coach in 1969 and, as chairman Dan Rooney said, “He made it what it meant to be a Steeler. He was the catalyst. He did it all. He is a special guy … and this is a special thing.”

Greene, a member of the NFL's All-Time Team selected in 2000, was a five-time All-Pro, a 10-time Pro Bowl pick and a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

It wasn't just how well he played — perhaps better than any Steelers player at any position — but how he played. His relentlessness and emotion — he once threw a football into the stands to show his displeasure at a lack of holding calls — was intimidating to opponents and motivating to teammates.

“Joe Greene and the (Steel) Curtain guys, we all look up to them,” Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu said. “They left bigger shoes to fill than for any players on any team at any time.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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