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Little Known Black History Fact: The Steel Curtain Four


by Erica L. Taylor

Their nicknames were Mean Joe, Hollywood Bags, Fats Holmes and Mad Dog. And in the mid-1970’s, they were known as the Steel Curtain Four. The Steel Curtain Four referred to the four defensive tackles of the Pittsburgh Steelers – there was Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes and Dwight White. The team got their nickname from a 9th grader who had submitted the name “Steel Curtain” through a contest entry at a local radio station.

The Steel Curtain Four became the first dominant all-black starting four in league history. According to the Wall Street Journal, the four men, who were all raised in a racist southern environment, were called the Tuskegee Airmen in cleats.

Charles Edward Greene, a.k.a. Mean Joe Greene, was a defensive tackle from Elgin, Texas. Standing at 6 foot 4, weighing 275 lbs during the high point of his career, Joe Greene was a first round draft pick for the Steelers in 1969. He was rated #13 best player of all time by NFL.com and was the only player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1987).

L.C. “Hollywood Bags” Greenwood holds the number two spot on the Steelers’ all-time sacks list. Representing a small college in the south, Greenwood was a 10th-round draft pick out of Arkansas AM&N, which is now Arkansas Pine-Bluff. The defensive end from Canton, MS gave twelve years to the Steelers, which took him to the Pro Bowl six times. Within that time span, Greenwood, who got his nickname for always having his bags packed for Hollywood, made 73 and a half sacks.



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