PITTSBURGH — Hundreds of Steelers fans came to Acrisure Stadium Tuesday in frigid temperatures to honor the legacy of legendary running back, Franco Harris, in a solemn and emotional public viewing.
The viewing was held in the PNC Champions Club, but by 3 P.M. the line wrapped all the way down to the Primanti Brothers’ station in the Great Hall. Outside, cars poured into the lots, which were held open for free. Bystanders took pictures at the Immaculate Reception marker, which turned into a tribute for Harris, and a newly carved ice sculpture that read ‘Harris 32’.
Throughout the day, the memorial became more than just a photo spot for fans, and more and more pieces became added to the collection of Steelers memorabilia. One man hung an Italian flag reading ‘Franco’s Italian Army’ from the tree to the right of the monument. Other notable items included an IC Light can, a poster reading ‘Thank you, Franco’, multiple Terrible Towels silted by the snow, and a collection of flowers to honor Harris.
Draped on the Southwest Rotunda of the stadium was the flag with Harris’ iconic No. 32, which is now retired. Throughout the entire stadium, a photo of Harris adorned the screens in his memory. On the day, two interesting vehicles even came through in Franco Harris’ honor. On the car, called the ‘Steeler Mobile’, Harris’ autograph adorned the hood. Then, there was a school bus themed for the Steelers. Posted on the windows were faces such as Terry Bradshaw, Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, and of course, yes, Franco Harris. Eventually, the bus would have a poster with a massive No. 32 hanging from its side, and fans could come up to sign their name on it to remember Harris.
On the outside of the stadium, the parking lots jumped in respect of Harris. In fact, there were multiple tailgates. Some of those carried Italian wine with the Italian flag accompanying the tailgate. In the Stage A&E lot, the Steelers Polka could be heard blasting through the cold wind. As figures such as Rocky Bleier, Jack Lambert, Bishop Zubik, Mayor Ed Gainey, and others came by, Pittsburghers drank alcoholic beverages in celebration of Harris.
Something about that felt a little bit right. Once inside the PNC Champions Club, Harris’ family, including his wife Dana, and son, Dok, greeted the many guests that came through to pay their respects to Harris. It often started and ended with a simple, “sorry for your loss” but on other occasions, fans would tell stories and through the sadness, some cheer in the laughter of old stories to reminisce on Harris cut through the room.
Fans came out and showed support throughout the entire event for Harris. Multiple groups of fans came together to remember the running back, including exchanging stories about the Immaculate Reception and how they met Harris throughout their life by the monument. While waiting in a line that became over an hour due to the sheer number of people wanting to pay their respects, fans told stories about Harris and the Steelers.
In the viewing book inside the PNC Champions Club, a fan came as far away as California to the public viewing to see Harris. In the honoring of a legend, it became more than just a Pittsburgh affair, but a national one.
On Saturday, the Steelers retired Harris’ number at Acrisure Stadium. It became only the third number to earn such an honor in team history. In addition, after the game, running back Najee Harris handed the game ball to Dana Harris following their 13-10 win over the Raiders. Throughout the day, past and current Steelers players and coaches came to say goodbye to Harris on top of the mass outpouring of support from the public.