The NFL & Pro Football HoF Cheated L.C. Greenwood, Steelers and Record Books

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LC Greenwood knocks down 1 of 3 Vikings QB Fran Tarkenton passes in Super Bowl IX

With the passing of  Steelers great L.C Greenwood last weekend I wanted to remind all of how great he was and what a shame it was that he had to leave this earth without getting his due recognition.  I am re-posting this article that I wrote just 3 months ago (06/08/13).  It was after the death of former Rams great defensive end David “Deacon” Jones. Unfortunately my worries and concerns about L.C Greenwood came true only 3 months later.

With the passing this week of one of the NFL’s all time great players David “Deacon” Jones of the famous defensive front four the Los Angeles Rams “Fearsome Foursome” it got me thinking about Pittsburgh’s great front four “The Steel Curtain” and in particular L.C. Greenwood.

The Steel Curtain (Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes, Dwight White) is considered the greatest defensive front four in NFL History and no one can argue with the results: 4 Super Bowl victories. Ernie Holmes only played with the Steelers through the 1977 season and therefore was only part of the first 2 Super Bowls.

The other great defensive lines in NFL history: Minnesota’s “Purple People Eaters”, the L.A. Rams “Fearsome Foursome”, Dallas Cowboys “Doomsday Defense”, Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers of the 60’s, Baltimore Colts and Cleveland Browns of the 1950’s and the Chicago Bears of the mid 1980’s can all argue for second place on the list. The Steel Curtain is #1.

Steel Curtain Is Last?  Really?

Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain on the cover of Time Magazine

However of those 9 dominant defensive fronts noted above the Steel Curtain is tied with Dallas for dead last in one very important category: having only one member of that unit enshrined in the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame (Joe Greene, Pittsburgh; Randy White, Dallas). The Packers (Willie Davis, Henry Jordan ), Rams (“Deacon” Jones, Merlin Olsen), Chiefs (Curly Culp, Buck Buchanan), Browns (Len Ford, Bill Willis) , Colts (Gino Marchetti, Art Donovan), Bears (Richard Dent, Dan Hampton) all have two inductees and the Vikings (Carl Eller and Alan Page) can even be argued for a third member in Jim Marshall. How is it possible the greatest front four ever has only one member in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Some of L.C. Greenwood’s accomplishments (1969-1981):

6 time Pro Bowl selection (1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979)

2 time First Team All-Pro selection (1974, 1975)

6 time All-Conference selection (1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979)

NFL 1970s All-Decade Team

4 time Super Bowl Champion (IX, X, XIII, XIV)

4 sacks in Super Bowl X (“unofficial” Super Bowl record) for a total loss of 29 yards

5 career Super Bowl sacks (“unofficial” Super Bowl record)

Batted 3 passes down in Super Bowl IX (“unofficial” Super Bowl game record & possible career record)

Ranks #2 in sacks all time for the Steelers: “Unofficially” Recorded 73.5 sacks (Jason Gildon, 77.0)

Led the Steelers in sacks 6 times

14 fumble recoveries in his career, including five in 1971, which tied for the NFL lead

Starred for Steelers 76 defensive team: five (5) shutouts and held 3 other opponents to under 7 points. The defense surrendered 28 points (2 Td’s and 5 FG’s) during the final nine regular-season games not allowing a touchdown in 8 of those games. Allowed an overall average of 9.9 points a game.  #1 in scoring defense.  #1 in total defense (237.4 yards allowed/game) . 46 takeaways (3.3 per game in 14 games).  Eight (8) of the Steelers starting eleven defensive players were selected for the Pro Bowl. Four (4)were eventually selected to the Hall of Fame

Super Bowl Silver Anniversary Team 1991

Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team

Pittsburgh Steelers 50th season All-Time Team

Played in 12 or more games every year except 1977 (9)

Played in 170 games

LC Greenwood Lines Up. Courtesy bing images.

Greenwood Didn’t Play In The ESPN Era: What Happened Last Was Best

L.C. Greenwood was 6′-6″ and listed at 245, fast, long, lean, agile, a great run defender, great pass rusher, great pass disruptor with his ability to knock passes down and he could deliver hit.  I have witnessed L.C. Greenwood many times shoot through the offensive line like a bolt of lightning and blow up the quarterback or running back. For the Steelers fans of today who never saw Greenwood play, think of how Houston’s J.J Watt knocks down passes. In looks, stature and style of play the Giants Jason Pierre-Paul or San Francisco’s Aldon Smith. For more than ten years L.C. Greenwood was a dominant run stopper and pass rusher. Unfortunately he didn’t do it in the ESPN era which is whatever happened last was the best….. or worst.

NFL Not Giving Just Due To Players Pre-1982

Sacks didn’t become an official statistic until 1982, so anything done before then doesn’t count in “official” NFL records. No one really knows how the sacks were totaled before 1982. Apparently each team was responsible for tallying them. According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, it is not on record as to how the Steelers recorded the sack totals before 1982. I have to wonder about the sack totals attributed to the Steel Curtain members during their careers. Here are their totals according to the Steelers media guide:

The Steel Curtain: Holmes, White, Greenwood, Green. Courtesy bing images.

Greenwood 73.5 (played 13 years) Average 5.6 sacks per year

Greene 66.0 (played 13 years) Average 5.0 sacks per year

White 46.0 (played 10 years) Average 4.6 sacks per year

Holmes 40.0 (played 7 years) Average 5.7 sacks per year

That is an average of 20.9 sacks per year total during the years the Steel Curtain played together from 1972-1977. Considering they did not blitz all that much when those 4 played together I have to wonder about the methods used back then by the Steelers for tracking sacks as the career totals seem awful low for how dominant the Steel Curtain defense was.

My Favorite L.C. Greenwood Regular Season Memory

November 25, 1979 vs. the Cleveland Browns. The sickest, wildest, rollercoaster regular season win I remember from that 70’s team. Very similar to the 2002 playoff game win vs. the Browns (36-33). The Steelers had just come off of a 35-7 turnover riddled beating at San Diego the week before, giving the home field advantage tiebreaker to San Diego (who would beat the lowly Chiefs on this day to go 10-3).  This game with the Brown had first place in the AFC Central riding on it as the Browns (8-4) were one game behind and the Oilers (10-3) had just beaten Dallas 3 days earlier on Thanksgiving. Pittsburgh (9-3) needed to win or the season could go from having the home field advantage to possibly not even making the playoffs in 2 weeks.

Steelers Defense huddles up against the Browns Nov. 25, 1979. bing images

For the first 3 quarters Pittsburgh could not stop the Browns. The Steelers were down 10-0 halfway through the first quarter. Cleveland QB Brian Sipe made big play after big play taking a 27-13 lead into the 4th quarter.  There just didn’t seem any possible way Pittsburgh could win because they could not stop Brian Sipe. L.C. Greenwood took over the game in the 4th quarter/overtime sacking Sipe 4.5 times. Greenwood’s late game dominance enabled the Steelers to finally stop the Browns (27 points in the first 45 minutes, only 3 points in the next 30 minutes) and tie the game at the end of regulation 30- 30.  Pittsburgh never led until there were 9 seconds left in the first overtime when Matt Bahr’s field goal went through the uprights for an exhausting 33-30 victory.

Greenwood Part of Greatest Super Bowl Defensive Team Performance

L.C Greenwood was a major factor in the greatest defensive Super Bowl game performances in history. In Super Bowl IX the Steelers defense held the Minnesota Vikings to a then record low of 17 total yards rushing for the game. Currently that ranks #2 (7 yards; Chicago vs. NE). The Steelers set the single game record for the fewest yards allowed (119 yards total) against Minnesota which still ranks #1. By the way L.C. Greenwood batted down 3 Fran Tarkenton passes in that game which also would be a record if made “official”.

Greenwood sacked Roger Staubach a Super Bowl record 4 times in Super Bowl X. Courtesy bing images.

Greenwood: Greatest Individual Defensive Super Bowl Performance 

One of if not the greatest individual defensive performance in Super Bowl history was turned in by L.C. Greenwood in Super Bowl X against Dallas. Greenwood’s four (4) sack performance against the Cowboys totaled 29 yards in losses. FOUR SACKS.  Because the NFL didn’t “officially” count sack statistics until 1982 it isn’t an official Super Bowl record. I can verify that Greenwood had 4 sacks as I have watched the replay of that game many times.  The NFL can too as they have the tape of the game and or play by play records of all of the Super Bowls before 1982. But for some reason the NFL chooses not to.

Greenwood Is the Legitimate #1 Super Bowl Single Game Sack Leader

The NFL can legitimately recognize Greenwood for the Super Bowl single game sack record as “official” if they wanted to. The current Super Bowl single game record is 3 sacks (Darnell Dockett, Reggie White). Dwight White would also be tied for second with Dockett and Reggie White if the NFL counted his 3 sacks against Dallas in Super Bowl X. However when NFL television analysts talk about great Super Bowl performances by a defensive lineman,  NFL fans only hear about or see are the highlights of Reggie Whites 3 sacks of Drew Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI against the Patriots. Has anyone ever seen them show one replay or talk about Greenwood’s 4 sacks in Super Bowl X?

Greenwood set the Super Bowl career sack record (5) in 4 Super Bowls. Courtesy bing images.

Greenwood Is the Legitimate #1 Super Bowl Career Sack Leader

The NFL could also make Greenwood the “official” all time Super Bowl career sack leader with 5 if they wanted to. But they don’t. Why don’t they? According to the NFL Charles Haley is the #1 Super Bowl career sack leader of all time with 4.5 sacks in 5 games.  Greenwood would also hold the Super Bowl single game record for passes batted down (3)and quite possible the career record for passes batted down in the Super Bowl if the NFL did made that statistics “official”.