The Steelers had so many great players in the 1970s, they didn't know where to start and stop with retiring jersey numbers, so they adopted a policy of not retiring them.
But 30 years later, a case could be made to start and stop with "Mean'' Joe Greene.
It wouldn't take much arguing to show that Steeler greats such as Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Mike Webster, Mel Blount, Jack Lambert or Jack Ham should have their numbers retired by the team. They are all very deserving.
But here's a vote for Greene and Greene only because:
n The Steelers have already retired a number - Ernie Stautner's 70 - so they won't be setting too much of a new precedent.
n Stautner was a defensive tackle, like Greene, so by honoring Stautner, it is a slight to Greene.
n Defensive tackle from North Texas State
n Steelers' No. 1 draft pick in 1969
n NFL rookie of the year in '69
n Played from 1969-1981
n 10 Pro Bowls
n All-AFC 11 straight times
n NFL defensive player of the
n Starter on four Super Bowl teams
n Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987
n Stautner played in the Steelers' unsuccessful era. They should honor someone from their great 1970s teams.
n Greene was Chuck Noll's first draft pick in 1969, which signaled the very beginning of the Steelers' rise to greatness.
n Greene was the face of the Steel Curtain defense, which was the big reason the Steelers were dominant in the mid-1970s.
n Greene played in 10 Pro Bowls, more than any other Steeler, and starred in four Super Bowls.
n Greene played his entire career with the Steelers and was the first of the 1970s players to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
n Greene later became an assistant coach for the Steelers, never did anything to embarrass the organization and is currently a Steelers special assistant for pro and college personnel.
n The jersey with the number 75 was immortalized in a Coca-Cola commercial and helped Mean Joe's name become familiar with non-football fans.
Greene is not getting any younger. It would be a terrific tribute to honor him by retiring the number 75.
It would be a break from tradition, but it would be the right thing to do.
Buck Frank can be reached at 946-7461 or firstname.lastname@example.org.