Franco Harris, one of the most beloved NFL players of all time and a true Pittsburgh Steelers legend, sadly passed away at the age of 72. Harris, a nine-time Pro Bowler and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was involved in one of the most iconic plays in league history, the Immaculate Reception, a wild, last-second play that powered the Steelers to a playoff victory over the then-Oakland Raiders 50 years ago.
In honor of the memory of Franco Harris, let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit the Immaculate Reception, complete with a highlight video and explanation of one of the greatest moments in league history.
When: December 23, 1972
The scene is set in the third year following the AFL-NFL merger, with the Steelers taking on the Raiders in a regular season rematch in the divisional round of the postseason.
Where: Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
A multi-purpose field located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The stadium was home to the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers from 1970 to 2000. It was also home to Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception.
The Play: Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception, Explained
The Steelers, who had made the playoffs just once in their franchise’s history, were looking to change their fortunes against the Raiders, who had been to an AFL Championship game and a Super Bowl already.
The game started off with little work for the scoreboard operators, as the Steelers and Raiders took a scoreless tie into their respective locker rooms.
The Raiders found the end zone, with the Steelers settling for a pair of field goals in the second half, setting the stage for the Immaculate Reception play.
With the Steelers trailing 7-6 in the fourth quarter and 22 seconds remaining in the game, quarterback Terry Bradshaw dropped back to pass and the pocket quickly collapsed on him, forcing him to scramble to his right.
That’s when chaos ensued.
Bradshaw looked downfield and tossed a pass to running back John Fuqua. The ball bounced off of Fuqua’s helmet and every Steelers fan held their breath.
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