Steelers to retire Franco Harris' No. 32 jersey during Immaculate Reception anniversary
The Steelers will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception at their Christmas Eve game against the Las Vegas Raiders by retiring the No. 32 jersey of the game's hero — running back Franco Harris.
The announcement was made Tuesday by Steelers president Art Rooney II, who presented Harris with a jersey with a 50th anniversary patch at a press conference at the team's South Side facility. The Steelers will wear that special jersey for the Raiders game only.
"The Immaculate Reception marked the turning point in franchise history," Rooney said. "My grandfather (Art Rooney Sr.) used to always say, 'We never won until Franco got here. We never lost after he arrived.'"
Harris, whose catch of a deflected pass and winning touchdown produced what has been judged the greatest play in NFL history, becomes only the third Steelers player to have his number retired. The others are Joe Greene (75) and Ernie Stautner (70).
"What an honor for me to have my No. 32 jersey hang alongside Ernie Stautner and my longtime friend and teammate Joe Greene," Harris said. "I'm blown away with this honor."
As part of the celebration, the Steelers will hold a ceremony the day before the game at a marker that sits outside Acrisure Stadium on General Robinson Street commemorating the exact spot where Harris caught the pass that deflected off running back Frenchy Fuqua and beat the Oakland Raiders. The ceremony will be held at 3:29 p.m., the exact time Harris scored the winning 60-yard touchdown and sent the Steelers to the 1972 AFC championship game.
Several former members of the Raiders, including linebacker Phil Villapiano, along with Harris' former teammates, will attend the ceremony.
"I thank the Steelers and Art for keeping this legacy alive," Harris said.
The Steelers have never given Harris' jersey number to another player after he retired in 1984. They have maintained a similar practice with some of their other Hall of Fame players, including Terry Bradshaw, Jack Lambert, Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson and Jerome Bettis.
"Franco's impact on our franchise is hard to overestimate," Rooney said. "It's a long overdue jersey retirement."