Sunday, February 23, 2014

Noll Began with Mean Joe Greene

In Patrick McCaskey's new book Pillars of the NFL, the lives and careers of the top ten NFL coaches and their teams are examined.  In our Sporting Chance Press Talk blog, we will excerpt some of Patrick's book to give potential readers a glimpse at this great title that is scheduled to publish in March 2014. Here we look briefly at Chuck Noll's first approach to building the Steelers' roster.

On January 27, 1969, Chuck Noll became the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Don Shula recommended him.  There was a certain working-class grit about Noll that appealed to the Steelers.  But rather than having a taste for boxing and horse-racing like Steelers’ owner Art Rooney, Noll enjoyed music and wine.  Rather than being a storyteller like Rooney, Noll was plain speaking and direct.  Yet, Noll was always a scrapper—like Rooney.

The interviews for head coach of the Steelers were extensive and Noll held nothing back.  Race would not be a consideration.  The team would be developed through the draft.  Noll would need control.  The “Chief,” Art Rooney, saw to it that he got it.  

When Chuck Noll met with Art Rooney Jr. and Dan Rooney before the first draft he directed, he told them about qualities he liked and thought the Steelers needed in their players.  He wanted playing speed and football intelligence.  He was looking for players who could play with leverage—gaining the advantage with their legs and delivering a blow not taking one.  And Noll was a big advocate of weight training.

When Noll came to the 1969 Steelers’ draft, he had one player in his candidate list that he insisted the team acquire that year:  Joe Greene.  Noll saw Greene as a leader and someone who embodied the kind of team he wanted to build.  The staff agreed.  

Joe Greene was a defensive tackle who was 6–foot–4, 275 pounds, quick and powerful.  His team at North Texas State University was called the Mean Green and he would be called Mean Joe Greene from that association.  Noll knew that Greene was the kind of player who could anchor a defense and drive everyone around him to play their best.

To see what Joe Green is up to these days, visit his website.
To see what the Steelers are up to today, visit their website.

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press