The man known as Just Plain Nasty steps into the players' lounge at Three Rivers Stadium and steps out of character. He shuts the door behind him, removes his sinister-looking sunglasses and lets his guard down. "See, I didn't even know I said anything," Greg Lloyd says. "They had to tell me what I said."
Lloyd, the Pittsburgh Steelers' five-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker, was referring to his nationally televised faux pas after the Steelers had beaten the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 14. He was passing the AFC championship trophy to team owner Dan Rooney when he suffered a tiny lapse in judgment.
"This thing belongs to Mr. Rooney," Lloyd announced to everyone in the Steelers' dressing room—and to a national television audience. "Let's see if we can bring this damn thing back here next year, along with the f——Super Bowl!"
(One commercial you won't see in 1996: "Greg Lloyd, you just won Super Bowl XXX; what are you going to do now?"
"I'm going to f——Disney World!")
Stretched out on a couch in the lounge, Lloyd skims the story that this day's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has devoted to his blooper: LLOYD TURNS HEADS WITH XXX-RATED REMARK. Beneath that article is a smaller one, headlined: MALL SET FOR BLITZ BY SUPER STEELER. That night Lloyd would spend a couple hours autographing team calendars to benefit a football camp for deaf children. The stories neatly delineated the two sides of Lloyd: the Prince of Darkness and the prince. The latter is a devoted husband and father of three who contributes a lot of time and money to charitable causes, the former a snarling headhunter who admits that when he hits a quarterback, his aim is "to take his ass out of the game."
At 6'2", 226 pounds, Lloyd is at once one of the most undersized linebackers and one of the most feared players in the NFL. He bench-presses 470 pounds, runs the 40 in 4.52 seconds and has a second-degree black belt in taekwondo. Lloyd had 116 tackles and 6½ sacks during the regular season. He excels as an all-around player, moving to inside linebacker and dropping into coverage on passing downs.
While injured cornerback Rod Woodson has always been regarded as the best player on the Steelers' defense, Lloyd has emerged as the spiritual leader of the unit. His personality dominates the Pittsburgh dressing room, and he's the one present-day Steeler who is reminiscent of the mayhem-making Steel Curtain defenders of the '70s. "No question," says Rooney, with a smile, "he would have fit right in with those guys."
Lloyd, 30, speaks reverently of those Steelers teams that won four Super Bowls. "Jack Lambert, Joe Greene, Dwight White, Ernie Holmes—they played football then," he says. "All the rule changes weren't in effect then. Now the NFL wants it to be PBS. They want to protect the quarterback, but I'm not into it. It's a violent game, and I'm going to play it the way it's intended to be played."
If Lloyd isn't the meanest dude in the league, Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre doesn't want to meet the guy who is. Lloyd blindsided Favre and knocked him out of a preseason game last August, giving the quarterback a concussion. "It was as if Favre had stepped on a land mine," says Steelers running back Fred McAfee. Even though no flag was thrown after the hit, Lloyd was later slapped with a $12,000 fine, the biggest in NFL history.