State Your Case: L.C. Greenwood

Second-team NFL all-decade pick in the 1970s

(Published September 2015)

There’s no question L.C. Greenwood benefitted from playing on the left side of Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain defense, lining up alongside tackle Joe Greene and in front of strongside linebacker Jack Ham.

But Greene and Ham also benefitted from playing with Greenwood.

Greene and Ham have received a deserving reward for their careers — busts in Canton.

But Greenwood, it seems, continues to be punished for having played alongside two Hall of Famers.

Despite having been voted to six Pro Bowls by his peers and a spot on the 1970s NFL all-decade team by the media, Greenwood has been denied membership in that exclusive gold-jacket club that includes Greene and Ham. He’s been a Hall of Fame finalist six times and has been passed over each time. And now he’s in the abyss that is the seniors pool.

There seems to be a belief that there are already enough Steelers from the 1970s enshrined. Nine of them, including four on defense (Greene, Ham, middle linebacker Jack Lambert and cornerback Mel Blount). Greenwood would be a 10th inductee from a team that won four Super Bowls that decade.

But the 1960s Green Bay Packers have 11 players enshrined off a team that won five NFL championships. And the 1970s Oakland Raiders have 10 players enshrined off a team that couldn’t beat the Steelers and wound up playing in only one Super Bowl that decade. Ken Stabler could be Oakland’s 11th inductee in the Class of 2016.

If there’s space in Canton for all those Packers and Raiders, there should be room for an 11th Steeler.

There also seems to be a belief that the presence of Greene and Ham made Greenwood the player he became in that scheme — a member of the Steelers’ all-time team. That’s a misconception, say the men who played with him.

“I leaned on L.C. a lot,” Greene said. “Some of the things I was able to do on the field were definitely because of his presence. We helped each other out. He was one of those special guys — special as a player, special as a person.”

Greenwood arrived in Pittsburgh along with Greene in 1969. But their draft standing was separated by nine rounds. Greene was the fourth overall choice of the first round out of tiny North Texas State and Greenwood the 238th overall pick in the 10th round out of even tinier Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Greene started immediately but Greenwood had to wait until 1971 to take over as the strongside defensive end.

Nicknamed “Hollywood Bags” for his desire to become an actor following his football career, Greenwood led Pittsburgh in sacks that 1971 season with 8 ½ — and would go on to lead the Steelers in sacks three more times in the decade. He also recovered five fumbles in 1971 and hit double figures with 11 sacks in 1974 on the way to Pittsburgh’s first Lombardi Trophy.

He and Greene both retired after the 1981 season and Greenwood still ranks second on the club’s all-time sack list with 73 ½.

During that run of four Super Bowl championships, Greenwood was among the best of Pittsburgh’s big-game players. He batted down three Fran Tarkenton passes in the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory and sacked Roger Staubach four times the following January in Super Bowl X. He sacked Staubach again in Super Bowl XIII.

For his efforts on those Sundays, Greenwood was selected to the Super Bowl’s silver anniversary team in 1990 along with Greene, Ham, Lambert and Blount. Only Greenwood, it should again be noted, remains without a bust.

The Steel Curtain was one of the great defenses ever assembled. This unit posted 11 shutouts in the 1970s and held 12 other teams to a single field goal. There are five members off the great Green Bay offense of Vince Lombardi in the 1960s in the Hall of Fame. There should be room for a fifth bust in Canton for the Steel Curtain.

Greenwood stood out on the field during his career by wearing gold high-top cleats. Sadly, Greenwood passed away in 2013 of kidney failure. There should be a gold jacket on his resume along with those gold cleats.


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