Fifty years after Franco Harris scored one of the greatest touchdowns in football history, the Steelers will retire his number.
The Steelers announced today that Harris’s No. 32 jersey will be retired at halftime of their home game against the Raiders on December 24. That will be 50 years and one day after Harris scored that great touchdown, immortalized as the Immaculate Reception, to beat the Raiders in the 1972 playoffs.
Harris’s No. 32 will be just the third number retired by the Steelers, following Ernie Stautner’s No. 70 and Mean Joe Greene’s No. 75.
In that 1972 playoff game, the Steelers trailed in the closing seconds before Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw launched a pass toward John “Frenchy” Fuqua. The ball bounced off either Fuqua or Raiders safety Jack Tatum — replays are inconclusive — before Harris scooped it up and ran for the game-winning touchdown.
The Raiders argued that the ball last touched Fuqua, and the rules of the time would have made it an incomplete pass when Harris touched it, as two consecutive offensive players couldn’t touch a forward pass. The Raiders also argued that the ball touched the ground before Harris caught it and should have been incomplete. But the officials sided with the Steelers on both counts, making it one of the most controversial plays in NFL history.
The NFL scheduled the Steelers-Raiders game knowing it was the 50th anniversary of that controversy, and Harris’s retirement ceremony will only add to the significance of that Week 16 game.