Joe Greene called his new autobiography his soap box. In it he talks about how the player long feared in the NFL as Mean Joe was bullied in junior high, and how it felt the day Chuck Noll told him he would have to spend time on the bench after his talents deteriorated.
Not in the book, but while talking about it, he also shows his disdain for Antonio Brown’s various antics on and off the field with the Steelers and how he feels “showboating” held the team back last season. He tells us what he thinks they need in the coming draft, his love for the franchise and his belief that Ben Roethlisberger has been the best quarterback in the NFL through the years. He also reasons why Roethlisberger talked about retirement two days after the season ended in disappointment.
With apologies to Jimmy Buffet and “A Pirate Looks at 40,” this is Joe Greene’s “A Steeler Looks at 70.”
The new autobiography is “Mean Joe Greene, Built by Football” with Jon Finkel. It is one of a planned series of such books by The National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. It is Joe Greene talking about his life, long before he was selected as the Steelers’ greatest player and beyond.
“A lot of this, I guess what I’m saying, has been kind of my soap box,” Greene said a few days before he was scheduled to appear at Mel Blount’s annual roast — this one of Joey Porter — in Pittsburgh over this weekend. “I’m one of those old guys.
“I’m a complete Steeler. I’m a Steeler but I’m old enough to not feel I’m P.C. when I’m talking about a team I love.
“You don’t have to agree with me.”
Many won’t, but as he did during his days leading the Steelers to one of the great dynasties in sports, Greene speaks his mind, so let’s start with his take on the current Steelers, which is not in his book.
“We got guys who like to showboat. It’s definitely the one [Brown], but it’s more than one. And they owe themselves better than that. You only have so long to play this game, it’s not always going to be there, you know. You have to max out.
“This year was a year lost. I can only imagine what would have happened to this team had our receiver who was suspended for a year [Martavis Bryant] been playing on the field. I can only imagine what would have happened had all of our weapons been there.”
He blamed some of it on selfishness, of “building your brand” rather than putting the team first. He said the Steelers need more Rocky Bleier-types.
“I’m saying right now we need someone in there who epitomizes what the Steelers are about and doesn’t mind picking up that gauntlet to be a Steeler and not to be out there creating – what do they call it? — their brand. You have to be a Pittsburgh Steeler first. You can’t create that act.”
He loves Roethlisberger, how he plays and how he came through his early immaturity to grown into the quarterback and the person he is today.
“I always thought he was the best quarterback in the league,” said Greene, who joined the Steelers scouting department the same year Roethlisberger was drafted. “I always did. I just thought he needed to get rid of the ball quicker. He makes plays.
“The most important thing for him is winning. Anybody who is watching it can see it, see the difference in how he has emerged. It’s about age. It can happen.”
Greene knows, because it happened to him. He was at times out of control as a young Steeler, frustrated with the losing that started with his 1-13 rookie season in 1969. He once heaved a football into the stands, and tossed his helmet after a loss that crashed into the goalpost.
He believes a different kind of frustration drove Roethlisberger to suggest he might retire two days after the Steelers lost the AFC championship game to the Patriots. It came one week after Brown’s infamous Facebook Live video from the locker room, an act Greene detested, and it came after receivers dropped a handful of passes in the AFC title game loss in New England.
Roethlisberger’s reaction “had to be something with his disappointment with those activities,’’ Greene said. “Those actions were not conducive to the winning framework, the winning attitude.”
Greene is not down on his team; he just believes a few of them need an attitude adjustment. As for what the Steelers need in the draft, which he helped evaluate for nine years until his retirement in 2013, Greene stayed true to form: Defense, although he believes in the old Steelers philosophy of selecting their most highly rated player.
“While I was there watching the draft unfold, to my knowledge I felt we always picked the best guy on the board. You can’t go chasing and the Steelers philosophy is you don’t chase the guy.”
“We would be fortunate if one of those guys happen to be an outstanding pass rusher or the term they use today, a “shutdown cover guy”, or a guy who plays in the middle who reminds everyone of Troy Polamalu.”
Or someone who could approach the kind of player who became the cornerstone of a franchise renaissance, Mean Joe Greene.