Kevin Greene, a Hall of Fame pass rusher who later won a Super Bowl as an assistant coach, has died at the age of 58. Greene, who spent parts of 15 NFL seasons with the Rams, Steelers, 49ers, and Panthers, retired with 160 career sacks following the 1999 season. Greene spent another seven seasons in the NFL as an outside linebackers coach, winning a Super Bowl ring with the Packers in 2010.
Greene, whose standout college career at Auburn including winning Zeke Smith Award as the nation's Defensive Player of the Year in 1984, was a member of the NFL's 1990s All-Decade Team. He was included in the Steelers' inaugural Hall of Honor class in 2017. Greene's NFL career was immortalized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
"The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Kevin Greene," said Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker. "I regarded him as a personal friend and a true Hall of Famer in every sense. He possessed the most incredible can-do attitude of anyone I ever met. He was a great player, but more than that, he was a great man.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Kevin's wife, Tara, and their entire family. We will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration for future generations. The Hall of Fame flag will be flown at half-staff in Kevin's memory."
Despite only spending three seasons in Pittsburgh, Greene chose the Steelers as the team he wanted representing him in Canton, Ohio. Following a successful eight-year run with the Rams, Greene signed with the Steelers as a free agent in 1993. During his three years in Pittsburgh, the "Blitzburgh" Steelers tallied 139 sacks, the best in the NFL.
Greene led the NFL with 14 sacks in 1994. In 1995, he helped spearhead Pittsburgh's run to an AFC title. And despite falling to the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX, Greene and his teammates held Emmitt Smith to just 49 yards rushing while holding Dallas' high-powered offense to just 64 yards in the second half.
"They love their football, but they love their defensive football," Greene said of the Steelers in an NFL films documentary. "They remember the Jack Lamberts, the Mean Joe Greenes back in the day. They want to see that again. They want to see that kind of viciousness. And I just fed off that energy of Steeler Nation. It was almost like football heaven."
The feeling was mutual in Pittsburgh as it related to Greene and the Steelers' passionate fan base.
"This is a hard-working guy playing in a hard-working city," said Steelers Hall of Fame coach Bill Cowher. "And boy, he became a fan-favorite pretty quickly with his flowing locked hair."
Greene provided a similar spark with the Panthers in 1996. After going 7-9 and its inaugural season, the Panthers went 12-4 in 1996, with Greene recording a league-high 14.5 sacks. The Panthers then recorded their first-ever playoff win, a 26-17 win over the defending champion Cowboys, before bowing out to the eventual champion Packers in the NFC title game.
Greene made his fourth consecutive conference title game appearance the following season with the 49ers, as the 35-year-old pass rusher tallied 10.5 sacks during his one season in San Francisco. During his final two seasons, both with the Panthers, Greene tallied 15 and 12 sacks before calling it a career after the 1999 season.