Even though future Hall of Famer Kevin Greene only played three of his 15 seasons in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he left one indelible mark with the franchise. After the 1995 season, however, Greene left Pittsburgh to sign a two-year, $2 million contract with the Carolina Panthers and at the time, several fans couldn’t understand what led to him not re-signing with the Steelers.
During a Monday interview on 970 ESPN Radio, Greene explained his decision to sign with the Panthers.
“I didn’t want to leave and I think that’s a misconception a lot of people have is that I sold out, or whatever, and went to the Panthers for big money. But I really wanted to stay,” said Green, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2016 in August. “I’m not going to get into the particulars of why I didn’t go, but I didn’t want to ride the pine and be on the bench. I wanted an opportunity to compete for a starting job and so I had to leave Pittsburgh when I did.”
It’s interesting to hear Greene say that he would have likely had to ride the pine in Pittsburgh had he re-signed with the team but it’s important to remember that at that time the Steelers also had outside linebackers Greg Lloyd and Jason Gildon under contract and as the old saying goes, “You can’t sign everybody.”
Greene doesn’t appear to hold any hard feelings about what ultimately transpired in 1996 and his decision to sign with the Panthers resulted in him registering a career-high 14.5 sacks in his first season in Carolina. It’s still sad, however, that Greene wasn’t with the Steelers in 1996 as Lloyd wound up suffering a season-ending knee injury that year in the regular-season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, which by the way, was a game that I attended. Luckily for the Steelers, Chad Brown was able to move from inside linebacker to replace Lloyd on the outside and wound up registering a career-high 13 sacks in his absence.
Greene noted on Monday that playing in Pittsburgh was the time of his life and that while he was already established as a good football player during his first eight seasons in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams, he didn’t become a “next-level” player until he arrived in Pittsburgh.
“I bleed black and gold and once a Steeler, always a Steeler,” said Greene.
The Steelers will honor Greene for his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with a ring ceremony during their Oct. 2 home game against the Kansas City Chiefs.