Joe Greene's problem today was his high profile as an All-Pro with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The television cameras just keep showing that right uppercut that might have felled Muhammad Ali. Look for an enterprising boxing promoter to make him an offer, if only for the publicity of the thing.

Greene is insisting that the camera tells the truth, but not the whole truth. He agrees it was a cheap shot he took at Paul Howard, which knocked the Denver guard flat for several minutes in Saturday's 34-21 Bronco playoff victory.

Greene's only hope now is that films of the game will show what provoked him in Mile High Stadium. He even protests he is "a gentleman."

But the present climate in reaction to fisticuffs in pro basketball and Greene's own previous run-ins with the courts, the National Football League commissioner and game officials, not to mention opposing players, weaken his chances of avoiding action by Pete Rozelle.

In Denver, he was subjectively described as giving cheap-shot artistry a bad name. And it was recalled that in a 35-35 tie with the Broncos in 1975, Howard charged Greene with kicking him in the groin so hard that it ripped open his scrotum. There was no penalty because then Denver coach John Ralston withdrew that charge after saying the game films did not show Greene doing such kicking.

Greene suggested on Saturday that he had to take the law into his own hands. "My job is to get to the man with the ball," Greene explained.

"If the man in front of me is impeding me illegally and the officials are not calling it a foul . . . then I have to do something about it.

"Believe me - those punches I threw at Howard and then at center Mike Montler were retaliatory reactions. You can put them in the category of defending one's self. And - believe me - I take more . . . than I dish out. I'm a gentleman."

Howard said that Greene accused him of holding before the Saturday punch. Montler admitted that his fingers inadvertently slipped inside Greene's face guard before Greene punched him and Montler missed with a counterpunch.

It is on the record in the unsuccessful suit by George Atkinson of the Oakland Raiders against Pittsburgh coach Chuck Noll that Noll testified Greene and other Steelers were "part of the criminal element in football" as well as Atkinson and other Raiders.

Greene was named defensive captain of the Steelers after that. But since then, he threatened that he might take physical action against game officials and publicly criticized commissioner Rozelle for his remarks about unnecessary violence.

Cincinnati and Oakland players previously have accused Greene, among others, of bending the rules, and a national magazine made his type of play the subject of an illustrated article.

Greene did sound like a rational gentleman after he analyzed the loss to the Broncos. "They have to be good," he said, "because they beat us twice.

"That's why I think they can beat Oakland. They're young, vibrant and hungry."

Quarterback Terry Bradshaw said, "four years from now this fan reaction and enthusiasm in Denver will die down. We use to have crazy football fans in Pittsburgh, too. They used to call Franco (Harris) the Italian stallion; there was 'Franco's Army' and 'Gerela's Gorillas.' It will settle down here. The fans will get conservative and wear suits."

Bradshaw has not quite turned all philosopher.

Asked to rate the Broncos, he said, "Same old Denver team; no offense. I'm not impressed with their offense. But their defense is super. We had five turnovers (a blocked punt, a fumble and three interceptions, which were turned into 24 points). You just can't do that and win."

The Broncos had the best record in the American Football Conference, 12-2, but they ranked 12th in total offense and last in passing.

The Raiders, whom they will play at home on Sunday for the right to go to the Super Bowl, ranked first in offense, first in rushing and eighth in passing.

The Raiders played defense, too, ranking sixth overall, fifth against the rush and ninth against the pass, but that may be convenient with Denver's lack of emphasis on throwing.

The Raiders led the league in scoring, with 351 points. The Broncos scored 274. The Broncos allowed only 148 points and the Raiders 230.