If you were born after 1975 or so, this article probably won't mean much to you. But if, like me, you were born in the 60s (okay, the early 60s), it may strike a chord.
Last Sunday, L.C. Greenwood, one of the vaunted "Steel Curtain" defensive lineman from the famed Pittsburgh Steelers of the 70s, died of kidney failure. He was the third member of that awesome front four that has passed away in the last five years.
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The fourth, and probably most famous, of the group, "Mean" Joe Greene, is now the only surviving member of what many consider the best defensive line, and the best overall defense, in NFL history.
As a kid playing football in the front yard, my friends and I, like most kids that are football fans, pretended to be different players when we were in a game. On offense, I was always Franco Harris. And on defense, I was always L.C. Greenwood. You would laugh if you could've seen the size of me as a kid; I was always the smallest person in my class until I hit puberty. Neither of those two men could be considered tiny in any way.
I'm not sure what it was about Greenwood that always attracted me to him. He wasn't the biggest of the Steel Curtain, at least in terms of his weight. He was actually one of the first lean, fast defensive ends to play. Until that time, DEs were still big and slow, just plugging holes in the run game and occasionally muscling their way to a sack or tackle in the backfield.
Greenwood, however, was one of the first guys that I can remember who perfected what is now known as the "speed rush," which is basically just being quicker and faster off the ball than the tackle you're lined up against, shooting around him and getting to the quarterback.
Maybe that's what it was that I liked about him. I was small and fast, and loved to try and blow past whomever was blocking me.
Greenwood was a robust 6'6, but when he came out of college at Arkansas AM&N (now Arkansas-Pine Bluff), he was considered skinny. Too tall to play linebacker, he beefed up to 245 pounds, which still looked small next to Greene. Greenwood wasn't taken until the 10th round, in the first draft headed by new Steeler head coach Chuck Noll.
Needless to say, Greenwood turned out to be a steal that late in the draft, going on to play in six Pro Bowls, and unofficially recording 73-1/2 sacks over 13 seasons. It's unofficial because the NFL didn't recognize sacks as an official stat until 1982. I like to think he was part of the reason that the league decided to start keeping track of that particular statistic (his final season was 1981).
Greenwood and his Steel Curtain teammates helped lead the Steelers to an unprecedented (at the time) four Super Bowl championships, and even Terry Bradshaw, who quarterbacked those teams, will tell you that those defenses are why they won, even though the offense wasn't bad, either; with himself, Harris, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, and Mike Webster, all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
I always thought it was a crime that Greenwood was never elected to the Hall. Other members of that amazing defense that were include Greene, linebackers Jack Ham and Jack Lambert, and defensive back Mel Blount.
L.C. Greenwood was only 67 years old.