Tuesday's NFL: Steelers to retire Franco Harris' No. 32 on Christmas Eve

Associated Press

Pittsburgh — The “Immaculate Reception” will live on forever in Pittsburgh. Now too, will the number of the author of the most iconic play in NFL history.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will retire Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris’ No. 32 on Christmas Eve, 50 years and one day after he plucked the ball out of the air and raced down the sideline to the end zone to pull out a stunning playoff victory over the Oakland Raiders.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will retire the No. 32 of Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris during a Christmas Eve game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

The honor marks the third time in franchise history the Steelers will retire a number. They previously retired the No. 75 of Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene and the No. 70 of Hall of Fame defensive tackle Ernie Stautner.

“It’s about time they had an offensive guy on the list,” Harris said with a laugh on Tuesday.

Harris spent all but one of his 13 seasons in the NFL in Pittsburgh, arriving as a rookie out of Penn State in 1972 to a team attempting to escape decades of mediocrity. The Steelers reached the 1972 playoffs thanks in part to Harris’ 1,055 yards rushing, but found themselves trailing 7-6 in the waning seconds and facing fourth-and-10 at the Pittsburgh 40 with just 22 seconds to go.

Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw let loose a desperate heave in the direction of running back Frenchy Fuqua. The ball caromed off Oakland defensive back Jack Tatum and appeared to be fluttering incomplete before Harris grabbed it inches before hitting the turf. He then took off down the sideline to complete a 60-yard touchdown that sealed a 13-7 win and set off chaos at Three Rivers Stadium.

While Harris ran for 12,120 yards and won four Super Bowls, he knows he is forever linked to the play that turned the fortunes of a franchise forever. Pittsburgh had never won a playoff game before Harris sprinted into NFL lore. The Steelers now have six Super Bowl titles, tied with New England for the most in league history.

“The ‘Immaculate Reception’ marked the turning point in franchise history,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said. “My grandfather (Art Rooney Sr.) used to always say, ‘We never won until Franco got here. We never lost after he arrived.’”

There will be two ceremonies to honor Harris. One will be at exactly 3:29 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 23 at the plaque at the spot in now-bygone Three Rivers Stadium where Harris caught the ball. The other will be a ceremony at halftime of Pittsburgh’s Christmas Eve game against the Raiders, now based in Las Vegas.

The Steelers will wear a patch commemorating the play during the game and don throwback jerseys the team wore during the 1972 season.

All because Harris saw a ball in the air and remembered the advice of his college coach, Joe Paterno.

“Play to the end,” Harris said. “Never give up. Believe things can happen … and always go to the ball.”

Bears release renderings

The Bears plan to build an enclosed suburban stadium that could host Super Bowls, College Football Playoff games and Final Fours.

The Bears released conceptual illustrations of the proposed stadium and entertainment complex that would be built on the site of a former horse racing track in Arlington Heights, Illinois. The Bears said the project could include restaurants, office space, a hotel, fitness center, new parks and open areas as well as “other improvements for the community to enjoy.”

The Bears said they would not seek public funding for the stadium if the sale of the 326-acre property is completed and if they decide to move there. But they would seek taxpayer assistance for the rest of the project.

The organization signed a purchase agreement last year for the tract of land that’s about 30 miles northwest of Soldier Field. Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips, who announced last week he will retire after this season, has said a deal likely wouldn’t close until early 2023.

The Bears’ lease at Soldier Field, where the team has played since 1971, runs through 2033.

Extra points

Former Chiefs assistant coach Britt Reid is scheduled to enter a plea on Monday to felony driving while intoxicated causing serious injury after a 2021 car crash that seriously injured a young girl.

Reid, son of Chiefs coach Andy Reid, is expected to plead guilty, Jackson County (Missouri) Circuit Court records show. He was scheduled to go to trial on Sept. 26.

He faces up to seven years in prison, The Kansas City Star reported.

Police said Reid was intoxicated and speeding when he hit two parked cars on an entrance ramp near Arrowhead Stadium in February 2021. A girl in one of the cars, Ariel Young, who was 5 at the time, suffered a traumatic brain injury.

… Guy Morriss, a 15-year NFL offensive lineman who played in Super Bowls with Philadelphia and New England before coaching collegiately at Baylor and Kentucky, has died. He was 71.

Kentucky announced that Morriss died Monday in Danville, Kentucky. Athletics spokesman Tony Neely confirmed the school was informed by his family. No cause of death was specified in a release, though Morriss was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2017.