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Pitt rookie drawing rave reviews

August 29, 2018

“Mean” Joe Greene is one of six Pro Football Hall of Famers who’ll be in attendance as we unveil the entire Team For the Ages at “Football Legends LIVE!” Sept. 8 in Crystal Lake, Ill. Tickets are on sale now: https://shawmediaevents.com/e/pfw50

This feature originally ran in Pro Football Weekly, Vol. III, No. 15, Nov. 20, 1969

PITTSBURGH — A remarkable troupe of rookies is painting the future a vivid bright for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

With two bona-fide candidates for Rookie of the Year, the Steelers are not tearing up the National Football League this year, but they are giving promise of turning this star-crossed football team around in the future.

The youngsters chiefly responsible are Terry Hanratty, the All-American quarterback from Notre Dame who has been brilliant in his early games, and 275-pound Joe Greene, the most incredible lineman to hit the NFL since Bob Lilly was a yearling.

While Terry Hanratty and Greene, because of the nature of their jobs, are drawing most of the rave notices, a half-dozen more rookies are battling for jobs on this team of the future. Other promising prospects are fullback Warren Bankston, safety Charley Beatty, defensive tackle Clarence Washington, defensive end L. C. Greenwood, linebacker Brian Stenger and wide receiver Erwin Williams.

GREENE, the Steelers’ No. 1 draft choice and the top-ranked defensive lineman in college last year, has been everything the scouts said he would be — big, fast, agile and aggressive. He has drawn the praise of every team he has faced this year.

“He’s a good tackle right now. He’s going to be a great one,” said Green Bay’s Gale Gillingham, the only guard who has kept Greene off a passer’s neck all year.

“Just between you and me,” said Cleveland’s Gene Hickerson, “Greene’s the best tackle I’ve seen all year. He’s strong and fast, and he has a great attitude. Here’s the Steelers getting beat by two touchdowns, and he’s out there laughing and talking it up.”

The Washington Redskins partially solved Greene’s charge by assigning three men to handle him, guard Willie Banks, center Len Hauss and one of the backs held in to protect Sonny Jurgensen. Still, Greene was breathing down Jurgensen’s neck all afternoon, hitting him three times.

“It’s not that he’s so big and strong,” said Banks. “There’s lots of big, strong tackles in pro football, but he’s so fast you have a hard time, getting to him.”

Gillingham agreed that Greene was indeed fast.

“He might have been the fastest man on the field,” said the Packer lineman. “Was he really that good?” a teammate, Francis Winkler, asked Gillingham. “He really is,” replied Gillingham. “And he’s going to be a lot better.”

BILL NELSEN, the Cleveland quarterback, was well aware of Greene’s presence. After one play, an interception of a Nelsen pass by the Steelers, Greene, assuming the role of a blocker, took off after Nelsen, who started suddenly for the safety of the sidelines.

“I saw him coming and I decided I better get out of there,” said Nelsen. “I was asking myself ‘What the hell’s he coming after me for?’”

Still, Greene’s not the only rookie on the Steelers’ defensive line. As a matter of fact, he’s sharing playing time with Greenwood and Washington, two roommates at Arkansas A&N who have been alternating as regulars in coach Chuck Noll’s young rush line.

“I can’t remember when any team ever came up with three rookies like that in the same year,” said Blanton Collier, coach of the Cleveland Browns. “Greene? If he weights 275 pounds, he’s the fastest 275-pounder I’ve seen, but I don’t know if he’s any faster than those other two.”

“Mean” Joe Greene is one of six Pro Football Hall of Famers who’ll be in attendance as we unveil the entire Team For the Ages at “Football Legends LIVE!” Sept. 8 in Crystal Lake, Ill. Tickets are on sale now: https://shawmediaevents.com/e/pfw50

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