The Steelers honor Harris by rallying the Raiders past
Pittsburgh – Mike Tomlin wasn’t ready to go there, with all due respect.
Yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers coach understands the symmetry between Saturday night’s 13-10 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders and a playoff victory over the same franchise 50 years ago, a victory that ended with Franco Harris stopping a deflected pass and springing into NFL lore with what is universally known as the ” Immaculate reception.
Like that game five decades and one day ago, the rookie scored the winning touchdown, this time wide receiver George Pickens on a 14-yard dart from Kenny Pickett with 46 seconds remaining.
However, the similarities end there. Harris was voted the most decorated play in NFL history during its 100th anniversary season in 2020 and helped launch a dynasty.
What happened in the frozen Acrisure stadium on Christmas Eve 2022 was not.
“I wouldn’t try to put him in that neighborhood,” Tomlin said with a laugh. Not even in that city.
Still, Tomlin can appreciate that Pickett, Pickens, and all the rest of the still incredibly young Pittsburgh members carved out what he calls “a small place in Steelers lore” by putting together an impressive late drive that kept Pittsburgh’s slim hopes alive while praising the same Harris time.
The Hall of Fame inductee went down Wednesday, two days before the golden anniversary of his distinguished career and three days before the 32nd-place franchise retired. His untimely death turned what was supposed to be a celebration of his career into a poignant reflection on his remarkable life.
The current Steelers — all born after Harris retired in 1984 — have done their best to pay tribute. Tight end Pat Freiermuth, an alumnus of Penn State like Harris, suggested to Tomlin during the week that the entire team show up Saturday night wearing replicas of Harris’ jersey.
Defensive end and co-captain Cam Heyward ran out onto the field waving a huge flag with Harris’ number on it. Pickett made a mock call of “Franco! Franco” while on a beat before sneaking down for the first time.
During the break, Harris’s widow, Dana Dokmanovic, and their son, Doc, joined team boss Art Rooney II in a wee party that included Dokmanovic leaning over to Rooney for support after he presented her with her late husband’s jersey.
“We dedicated this to Franco,” Beckett said. “I 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 and Nagy Harris gained 95 total yards as the Steelers (7-8) won for the fifth time in seven games.
“We’re still in the hunt,” Hayward said. “I like to think we just keep getting better and better as the weeks go by.”
Derek Carr threw for 174 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions, the last of which was a float down the middle of the field caught by Cam Sutton with 29 seconds left. Pittsburgh rookie Conor Heyward ran in for the first time to help the Steelers run out the clock.
The Raiders (6-9), who pulled off a dramatic last-game victory over New England last week, returned to their form from earlier in the season by losing their eighth one-score game of the year. They could be eliminated from the playoffs by the end of the week.
Josh McDaniels, Las Vegas coach, Las Vegas coach, Josh McDaniels said. “Obviously I have to do a better job of trying to bridge the gap.”
It was a gap that the Raiders found on the right side for the first 59 minutes or more in what was the second-coldest home game in Steelers history.
Carr started sharp in minus 8 degrees (minus 13 degrees Celsius) weather—the Coldest home game for the Steelers since 1989—and finished a 14-play, 71-yard opening drive with a 14-yard strike to Hunter Renfro.
Still, Las Vegas let the Steelers hang around, and Pickett — whose name Harris announced when Pittsburgh took him at the 20th overall pick in this past spring draft — delivered the first signing moment of what the Steelers hope will be a decorated career.
“I can’t say enough about (our young offensive players), all of them,” said Tomlin. “They showed poise, determination and made the necessary plays. We’re moving forward with a really happy Christmas.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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