Pittsburgh – days later The death of Franco Harris shocked and saddened a city, an organization and an entire football community, Steelers President Art Rooney II climbed onto the riser for a halftime ceremony that sparked mixed feelings.
Fifty years (and one day) after Harris’ unlikely and half-hearted catch started Dynasty, the Steelers are back on the field with the same Raiders They were defeated on December 23, 1972. A dozen former “Immaculate Reception” players were on hand, wearing their old numbers as they paraded the court with sticks and wobbly knees. Joe Green was there. Mel Blount. French Fuqua. and many more.
However, Harris’ absence left a huge and irreplaceable void.
‘Still in disbelief’: Fans honor Franco Harris with awesome towels and gold flowers
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” Rooney said. “The big guy should have been standing right here next to me. I want to thank (Harris’ wife) Dana and (son) Doc for being here tonight and for sharing Franco with us over the past 50 years.
“It was said that life will bring you sorrow. It is up to us to bring you joy. Franco has brought us joy for 50 years.”
An emotional moment in Pittsburgh as Franco Harris officially retired his #32 jersey. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/cpbufU6qgG
– NFL December 25, 2022
while the Harris retirement party number 32 As initially planned, the tone changed dramatically. What was supposed to be a celebration of Harris and all his accomplishments turned instead into a night of reflection and remembrance, as those close to Harris and those who had never met him continued to work through the initial stages of the newfound grief.
When Rooney presented Harris’s wife and son with jersey number 32, Dana wept. Rooney wrapped her in a hug to console the footballer’s recently widowed wife. Franco’s anthems! Franco! Franco! rang out throughout the crowd. Many fans who braved the single-digit heats may have done so for one reason: to pay their respects to Harris. Meanwhile, members of the 1972 team stood and waved their freaky towels to salute their late teammate.
The 1972 team and all of the Steeler Nation waves terrible towels at Franco. 🙏 @employee | # Immaculate 50 pic.twitter.com/zxVe2xlwHt
– NFL December 25, 2022
Harris may not have been physically present. But this was still his day, from start to finish.
Pat Freermuth – Who is the He had a special relationship With Harris, a fellow producer at Penn State – he came up with the idea to wear jersey number 32. Everyone from coach Mike Tomlin to general manager Omar Khan to quarterback Kenny Beckett Appearance wore. During pregame introductions, the defensive team captain Cameron Hayward They emerged from the tunnel carrying a huge flag of No. 32. Prior to kick-off, the entire stadium observed a minute’s silence.
A moment of silence for Franco Harris pic.twitter.com/kDHySyKRRo
– Mike DeFabo (@MikeDeFabo) December 25, 2022
Throughout the game, these little hat tips persist. The Steelers pinned a fake snap count. Only once did quarterback Kenny Pickett say “Franco! Franco!” the play was live. NFL Network Microphones I picked up the beatPickett also sneaked the QB on the fourth and the decisive single.
Other individuals, especially Hayward, seem to play like men. Heyward carried two sacks and an extra tackle for a loss, broke up a pass at the line of scrimmage and made a cheeky move in a stunt to unleash Alex Highsmith for a bag.
“I think for us, it was just the pinnacle of not just the legend of Steeler but just a great guy,” Hayward said. “A person in the community that you can always count on. A man who even when he retired, still wanted to be your teammate. I can tell in my time here, Franco has welcomed me with open arms.
“There are a lot of leading men out there who like him. “Meaning, ‘Joe (Green). Mel Blount. Countless others. Terry Bradshaw. Mike (Tomlin). All of them. Myself.’ Nagy Harris. Decades and decades passed, but we still cared for a man who brought us so much.”
In their words and actions, the Steelers paid their respects to a football player who was so much more than that. And had it stopped there, it would have been more than enough for a memorable evening, one that united generations and honored one of the most beloved Steelers in franchise history.
After that, the Steelers fared better.
Trailing by four with just under three minutes left, the Steelers got the ball 76 yards from the necessary kickoff. In what Tomlin described as a “growth” game for the young Steelers forward, Pickett led Pittsburgh on the field.
With 46 seconds left the future George Pickens I found the soft spot between the high safety profile on the road contact. Pickett pierced it in the narrow window, from starter to starter, for a touchdown.
I got this dawg in it
📲 Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/E0NYNUAdNa pic.twitter.com/I4fnw9zVEw
– Pittsburgh Steelers (steelers) December 25, 2022
Down to their last chance, the Raiders quarterback Derek Carr Let one fly. Cameron Sutton He staggered the final interception with 36 seconds left to seal a memorable win.
“You have to stay grounded all the time, but you know the size of the game,” Beckett said. “We wanted to go out and get the win for (Franco Harris). Everyone kind of kept (their feelings) together and after the game, it’s obviously an incredibly special moment in the locker room. It’s safe to say I’m going to keep this (No. 32 Harris) shirt.” I’ll probably give it to my parents and hang up. It was a really special win.”
It wasn’t a deflected pass Caught and taken for landing to win a playoff. But the win at the last minute and the fact that he had a very similar 13-10 score definitely gave chills to many.
‘It’s a part of it’: The man with an ‘immaculate reception’ football won’t give it up
“We had the opportunity to be a part of Steeler history tonight, and man, we don’t take it lightly,” Tomlin said. “We just appreciate the ground laid by those who came before us. The guys love this guy’s (Franco Harris) shirt that I’m wearing here. We enjoy the fruits of their labor every day just in terms of the level of anticipation here in Pittsburgh, the relationship we have with our fan base.
“We just want to honor (Franco Harris), his teammates, all the guys who came before us, man, who made the black and gold what it is.”
(Photo by George Pickens and Kenny Pickett: Charles LeClair/USA Today)
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