The presence of late Pittsburgh Steelers legend Franco Harris was felt at Acrisure Stadium on Saturday (December 24) night during what was already scheduled to be a ceremony honoring his signature play prior to his untimely death.
The Steelers defeated the Las Vegas Raiders, 13-7, which was the same score as 'Immaculate Reception' game in which Harris caught a pass deflected off the helmet of then-Oakland Raiders safety Jack Tatum to score a go-ahead touchdown with 22 seconds remaining in the 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff Game during his rookie season 50 years and one day prior.
Similarly, Steelers rookies were responsible for once again responsible for their go-ahead touchdown as quarterback Kenny Pickett hit wide receiver George Pickens on a 14-yard pass with 46 seconds remaining.
"Obviously, we didn't have the Immaculate Reception, but it was a cool way to pull it out," said Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth who, like Harris, was a standout at Penn State before being drafted by the Steelers in 2021. "It was a low-scoring game. It was cool, awesome to be a part of. We appreciate all the fans that came in the cold. It was a great environment."
The Steelers were already set to officially retire Harris' No. 32 during a halftime ceremony commemorating the iconic play's anniversary prior to news of his death on Thursday (December 22).
Harris' wife, Dana Dokmanovich, their son, Dok, and several of his 1972 Steelers teammates were on the field at Acrisure Stadium -- which had its end zones painted exactly the same as they were at Three Rivers Stadium during the 'Immaculate Reception' -- with team owner Art Rooney II during Saturday's halftime ceremony honoring the legendary running back.
"It wasn't supposed to be like this," Rooney said via CBS News. "The big man was supposed to be with us tonight. ... Franco brought us joy for 50 years. So in recognition of his many contributions both on and off the field, it's my honor to declare No. 32 is officially retired."
Harris was the feature back in the Steelers' offense throughout the 1970s, winning four Super Bowls and setting franchise records of 11,950 rushing yards and 91 rushing touchdowns, both of which still stand today.
The former Penn State standout also appeared in eight games for the Seattle Seahawks during his final NFL season in 1984.
"It is difficult to find the appropriate words to describe Franco Harris' impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers, his teammates, the City of Pittsburgh, and Steelers Nation," Rooney said in a statement on behalf of the team on Thursday. "From his rookie season, which included the Immaculate Reception, through the next 50 years, Franco brought joy to people on and off the field. He never stopped giving back in so many ways. He touched so many, and he was loved by so many. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Dana, and his son Dok, and his extended family at this difficult time."