February 7, 2023

The Steelers honor Franco Harris by rallying past Raiders

PITTSBURGH — With all due respect, Mike Tomlin wasn’t ready to go there.

Yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers coach understands the symmetry between Saturday night’s 13-10 win over the Las Vegas Raiders and the playoff victory over the same franchise 50 years ago, when the Steelers’ Franco Harris snagged a deflected pass and sprinted. NFL lore known worldwide as “The Immaculate Reception”.

Just like in that game five decades and a day ago, a rookie beat the wide receiver this time George Pickens 14-yards out Kenny Pickett 46 seconds left.

However, the similarities end there. Harris’ play was voted the most famous in NFL history during its 100th anniversary season in 2020 and helped start a dynasty.

That’s not what happened on Christmas Eve 2022 at the chilly Agrisure Stadium.

“I’m not going to try to put it in the neighborhood,” Tomlin said with a laugh. “Not even in that town.”

Still, Tomlin can credit Pickett, Pickens and Pittsburgh’s still-unbelievable young offense for putting together an impressive late drive that kept Pittsburgh’s slim playoff hopes alive and carving out what he called “a little spot in Steelers lore.” Harris.

The Hall of Famer died Wednesday, two days before the golden anniversary of his limited play, and the franchise was his no. He also died three days before retiring on the 32nd. His sudden death turned what was supposed to be a celebration of his career into a poignant reflection. In his remarkable career.

The current Steelers — all born after Harris retired in 1984 — did their best to pay tribute. At tight end Pat FreiermuthA Penn State graduate, like Harris, suggested to Tomlin during the week that the entire team come out Saturday night wearing replicas of Harris’ jerseys.

Defensive end and co-captain Cam Heyward ran onto the field waving a massive flag with Harris’ digit. Pickett called out a dummy “Franco! Franco!”

At halftime, Harris’ widow, Dana Dokmanovich, and their son, Doug, joined team captain Art Rooney II in tears, with Dokmanovich leaning on Rooney after presenting him with her late husband’s jersey.

“We dedicated this to Franco,” Pickett said. “It felt like he was with us tonight.”

Pickett completed 26 of 39 passes for 244 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Freiermuth caught seven passes for 66 yards Najee Harris The Steelers (7-8) totaled 95 yards as they won for the fifth time in seven games.

“We’re still in the hunt,” Heyward said. “I like to think we’re getting better and better as the weeks go by.”

Derek Carr He threw for 174 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions, the last on a floater over the middle of the field. Cam Sutton 29 seconds left. Pittsburgh Rookie Connor Heyward The Steelers ran a first down to help run out the clock.

The Raiders (6-9), coming off a dramatic last-gasp win over New England last week, lost their eighth one-score game of the year and returned to their form from earlier this season. They could be eliminated from the playoffs by the end of the week.

“We’ve been out a lot (of games) and then lose in this fashion when you have a shot to win and you realize you’re close, but close doesn’t really count in this league,” Las Vegas head coach Josh McDaniels said. said. “I have to do a better job of closing the gap.”

It was a gap the Raiders found themselves on the right side of for the first 59-plus minutes of the second-coldest home game in Steelers history.

Carr started in crisp 8-degree (minus-13 Celsius) weather — the coldest home game for the Steelers since 1989 — and capped a 14-play, 71-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown strike. Hunter Renfro.

Yet Las Vegas let the Steelers hang around, a name announced by Harris when Pittsburgh took him with the 20th overall pick in last spring’s draft — giving the Steelers the first signing moment of what they hope will be a decorated career.

“I can’t say enough about (our young offensive linemen) all of them,” Tomlin said. “They were solid and determined and made the plays that were needed. We’re moving forward with a good Christmas.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.