Steelers Fans Create Franco Harris Memorials at Airport, Acrisure Stadium
PITTSBURGH — The city of Pittsburgh is in mourning right now, as former Steelers running back and Hall of Famer Franco Harris passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 72, just two days before the 50th Anniversary of the Immaculate Reception and three days before the retirement of his No. 32 jersey.
Every Steelers fan or Pittsburgh resident knows about the Immaculate Reception. I mean, there’s even a statue at Pittsburgh International Airport of Harris making the famous catch. It’s embedded into the culture. It was a play that sparked the Super Steelers dynasty of the 1970s and gave the city a sense of pride, as times were not good in Pittsburgh during the 1970s economically with the collapse of the steel industry. Harris provided a glimpse of hope to a region that was in despair.
He never left, either. Harris remained in Pittsburgh after his playing career and was heavily involved in the community. He was even working on revitalizing the historic Crawford Grill in the Hill District before he passed. Harris was so much more than just a football player or the Immaculate Reception. He was a pillar of the Pittsburgh community and a great human being. That’s why he was beloved by the city he called home for five decades.
Makeshift memorials are currently displayed for Harris at Acrisure Stadium and in front of the Immaculate Reception marker on the North Shore. Harris’ statue at the airport has also been moved to the main floor, so that people can pay tribute to him.
Billboards around Pittsburgh honored Harris on Wednesday. Harris’ alma mater Penn State also paid tribute to him on the Beaver Stadium video boards. Two United States Presidents — Joe Biden and Barack Obama — expressed their condolences. That says a lot about the impact that Harris had on people, outside of just football. Franco Harris was a cultural icon. He will be missed in Pittsburgh and across Steelers Nation.