PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers are retiring the No. 32 uniform of Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris this December to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.
Harris will become the third Steelers player to have his uniform number officially retired by the club, joining defensive linemen Ernie Stautner (70) and Joe Greene (75).
“I’m so thankful,” Harris said. “I know this consideration was a tough one, because there were a number of players that could have been honored.”
This season, Steelers are playing the Las Vegas Raiders, the franchise that the team defeated on Dec. 23, 1972, with Harris’ unlikely, historic touchdown reception that became the greatest play in NFL history.
For the Steelers’ game at Acrisure Stadium against the Raiders on Dec. 24, the team will wear 1972-era throwback uniforms with a special patch commemorating Harris. The day before, the team will have a ceremony at the exact location and time when Harris caught the ball to beat the Raiders, with a replay of the radio broadcast coinciding with the exact anniversary.
The play marked the ascent of the Steelers franchise from the losers of their first three decades to the club that won four Super Bowls in six years in the 1970s.
The Steelers have been extremely slow to officially retire uniform numbers, with Stautner serving as the lone exception for over five decades. The team retired Greene’s uniform in 2014. Team president Art Rooney II said the team will continue to be deliberate when it comes to retiring uniform numbers officially.
“I don’t expect to be doing it often,” Rooney said. “It’s still a rare occasion. … We do have many players who are deserving.”
Unofficially, no one has worn 32 since Harris left the Steelers in 1983. The Steelers also do not regularly give out the uniforms of Ben Roethlisberger (7), Terry Bradshaw (12), Jerome Bettis (36), Troy Polamalu (43), Jerome Bettis (36), Mike Webster (52), Jack Lambert (58), Jack Ham (59), Dermontti Dawson (63) and Hines Ward (86).