Fans were not happy with NFL Network on Saturday night when they cut away from the Franco Harris tribute the Pittsburgh Steelers put together at halftime during their game against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Harris, a Hall of Fame running back for the Steelers, died at 72 years old last week. It was just a couple of days before his famed “Immaculate Reception” reached its 50th anniversary, which the Steelers were going to honor during this Christmas Eve matchup while retiring his No. 32.
Unfortunately, a tribute to the late Harris was made to honor his 12-year legacy in Pittsburgh instead. It was teased leading up to the game by multiple networks, including NFL Network, which broadcast the Steelers-Raiders matchup.
However, viewers at home saw NFL Network cut to commercial when Harris’ tribute on the videoboard at Acrisure Stadium began.
Fans took to social media to voice their frustrations.
The Steelers honored Harris before the game as well, with veteran defensive tackle Cam Heyward running out with a black No. 32 flag. Players were also seen walking into Acrisure Stadium wearing Harris’ jersey before putting on their own in the locker room.
It was almost like Harris was looking down on his former team, too, when a late fourth-quarter drive resulted in a game-winning touchdown by rookie George Pickens with 46 seconds left to play. The win pushed Pittsburgh’s record up to 7-8.
Harris defeated the Raiders in the playoffs in 1972 with his Immaculate Reception, catching a batted ball and taking it to the house for a 13-7 win. And like Pickens, Harris was in his rookie season with Pittsburgh after being drafted out of Penn State 13th overall.
Harris had two separate interviews just hours before he died and spoke about the Immaculate Reception and how excited he was for Saturday’s ceremony.
“Art [Rooney] broke the news to me. I was just totally taken by surprise,” Harris said to Heyward on his podcast about being told of his number retirement. “I said, ‘What an honor to have my jersey retired.’ And then all the connections to it. That we’re going to retire it on Dec. 24. And also a Raider game we’re going to retire it. I mean, it is an incredible honor. The third jersey in 90 years of Steelers football. And the first offensive player.”
Harris was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year when he rushed for 1,055 yards and 10 touchdowns. His prowess in the Steelers’ offense under legendary coach Chuck Noll quickly made him a big piece in the franchise’s dynasty.
In 2020, the play was celebrated as the greatest in the NFL’s 100-year history.
Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff WriterMay 28, 2023, 06:00 AM ETCloseCovered Patriots since 1997 Joined ESPN in 2009FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes arou
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