L.C. Greenwood, one of the dominant defensive figures of the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s, died of natural causes Sunday in a Pittsburgh hospital. He was 67.
Greenwood was a six-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman, a key component of the “Steel Curtain” that was a big part of the team’s four championships in six seasons.
“L.C. was one of the most beloved Steelers during the most successful period in team history, and he will be missed by the entire organization,” team chairman Dan Rooney said in a statement.
Greenwood, “Mean” Joe Greene, Ernie Holmes and Dwight White formed the bedrock of the defense that helped turn a perennial loser into a dynasty.
L.C. Henderson Greenwood was born Sept. 8, 1946, in Canton, Miss., the oldest of nine children. He was taken in the tenth round of the 1969 NFL draft — nine rounds after Greene — from Arkansas A&M (now Arkansas Pine-Bluff). He blossomed into a tenacious pass rusher who used his superior speed to blow past offensive tackles and into the backfield. Though sacks did not become an official statistic until after his retirement, Greenwood posted 73½ during his 13-year career.
The 6-foot-6-inch, 245-pound Greenwood thrived in the postseason. Greenwood was a showman. While recovering from an ankle injury during the 1973 season, Greenwood wore a pair of high-top cleats that a friend painted gold. He wore them twice — both Steelers wins — and went back to his usual cleats after the ankle healed. The Steelers lost the next game, and the gold cleats soon returned.
Knee problems forced Greenwood to retire before the 1982 season. He remained in Pittsburgh after his retirement, working as an entrepreneur and motivational speaker.
Despite support from his teammates — including Greene — Greenwood has not been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a finalist six times, the last in 2006.