As a matter of fact, a good many Steelers will tell you that Greene now runs the team. No one questions the administrative or strategic authority of Noll, a man so unemotional that when his wife excitedly greeted him after the Super Bowl victory, he held out his hand to be shaken and said, "Well, we did it." Neither does Noll question Greene's sense of fitness, which caused him to withdraw himself from a game in '73 and to walk out of a team meeting—crying, according to one account—last year. In both cases Greene was put off by what struck him as a lack of fervor among his teammates.
"When we're losing, Joe will get to stalking around out there," says Russell. "Last year we were beating New Orleans but they were moving the ball and Joe yelled in the huddle, 'Andy, what're you going to do?' I got mad. 'I'm just going to play football,' I said." When Henry Davis was middle linebacker and ran the huddle he threatened to come to blows with Greene to shut him up. " Joe's such a great player," says Russell, "maybe he thinks everybody else can play better if they try harder. He doesn't seem to realize that other positions require more restraint, that you can make mistakes if you get too hyper. I don't think it works to keep making emotional pitches.
"In team meetings last year, I felt we should stress the positive, talk about how we're going to improve. Joe thought we ought to be more honest and bad-mouth the negative. As it turned out he figured his approach worked."
What Greene did last year, before the Steelers suddenly went into high gear, was criticize the Steeler offense to the press, exhort his teammates in general and insult opponents at the line of scrimmage. Some of the Steelers found it all a bit excessive, but many of them were doubtless lifted. They knew at least that Greene wasn't posturing. "It was after the playoff game we lost to Miami in '72 that I really got to know Joe as a friend," says Mel Blount. "He and his wife came over to the house and sat around with me and my wife and we talked about it. And a few tears were shed. That's when I got to know Joe as a true person. A good person. A really concerned person."
On the other hand, Greene is not the only man on the team. Shortly after training camp opened this summer, Receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth and Defensive Back Jim Allen, all second-year men, were sitting together in the 19th Hole, an almost cellar-dark bar to which many Steelers repair after practice. Swann, Stallworth and Allen wanted to make the point that Greene was "no big brother or daddy" to them.
"I think he's a great player," said Stallworth, "but I think I am, too."
"He'd stick out like a sore thumb without the rest of the front four," said Swann. "And he gets so excited on the sidelines. He'll go up to Chuck saying, 'What's the quarterback doing!' He'll go up to Lionel [Receiver Coach Taylor] and say, 'What're the receivers doing!' He gets so excited he's got us playing conservative, while he's taking chances.
"He gets such respect! Last year somebody clipped him and he stomped on the guy's head. The referee ran up to him, says, 'Mr. Greene!' Not 'Mr. 75, 'like he'd say to anybody else. 'Mr. Greene! I saw it,' the referee says about the clip. 'He won't do it again!' " Swann shook his head.
"I give him all kinds of trouble," added Swann about his non-big-brother. "I'll yell at him and he's so strong he might kill me. So I got him where he can't do anything."
Over at another table, a quorum of the offensive line was drinking Lite beer in big glasses of ice and building a pyramid out of the cans. That afternoon there had been an Oklahoma drill, known on other teams as the Nutcracker, in which an offensive lineman tries to stop a defensive lineman, one-on-one, from getting to a tackling dummy held by Dan Radakovich, the offensive line coach. Greene had beaten a couple of guys, rested a while, then stepped up to Gordy Gravelle, who had earlier won raves by putting Greenwood on his back—the first time anybody could remember that happening to L.C. Gravelle had worked against a couple of rushers with success, was psyched up and sweating. Greene made a move to step in. "You want to rest?" Greene asked playfully. Gravelle glared at him. "You too tired?" asked a coach, more seriously.