Steelers honor Franco Harris by rallying past Raiders

PITTSBURGH — Mike Tomlin wasn’t all set to go there, with all due regard.

Yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers coach comprehends the balance in between the 13-10 win over the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday night and a playoff triumph over the very same franchise 50 years earlier, the one that ended with Steelers running back Franco Harris snagging a deflected pass and running into NFL tradition with what’s generally referred to as “The Immaculate Reception.”

Like that video game 5 years and one day earlier, a novice scored the winning goal, this time pass receiver George Pickens on a 14-yard dart from Kenny Pickett with 46 seconds staying.

Yet the resemblances end there. Harris’ play was voted the most popular in NFL history throughout the league’s 100th anniversary season in 2020 and assisted introduce a dynasty.

What took place at freezing Acrisure Stadium on Christmas Eve of 2022 was not that.

“I’m not going to try to put it in that neighborhood,” Tomlin stated with a laugh. “Not even in that city.”

Still, Tomlin can value that Pickett, Pickens and the rest of Pittsburgh’s still exceptionally young offense engraved what he called a “small place in Steelers lore” by assembling a remarkable late drive that kept Pittsburgh’s slim playoff hopes alive while at the same time commemorating Harris.

The Hall of Fame running back passed away Wednesday, 2 days prior to the golden anniversary of his specifying play and 3 days prior to the franchise retired his No. 32. His abrupt death turned what was expected to be an event of his profession into a poignant reflection on his amazing life.

The existing Steelers — all of whom were born after Harris retired in 1984 — did their finest to pay homage. Tight end Pat Freiermuth, a Penn State graduate like Harris, recommended to Tomlin throughout the week that the whole group appear Saturday night using reproductions of Harris’ jersey.

Defensive end and co-captain Cam Heyward ran onto the field waving a huge flag with Harris’ number on it. Pickett made a dummy “Franco! Franco” call throughout his cadence prior to slipping for an initially down.

During halftime, Harris’ widow, Dana Dokmanovich, and their boy, Dok, signed up with group president Art Rooney II for a tearful event that consisted of Dokmanovich leaning into Rooney for assistance after he provided her with her late partner’s jersey.

“We dedicated this to Franco,” Pickett stated. “Felt like he was with us tonight.”

Pickett finished 26 of 39 passes for 244 backyards with a goal and an interception. Freiermuth captured 7 passes for 66 backyards and Najee Harris had 95 overall backyards as the Steelers (7-8) won for the 5th time in 7 video games.

“We’re still in the hunt,” Heyward stated. “I like to think we just keep getting better and better as the weeks go on.”

Derek Carr tossed for 174 backyards with a goal and 3 interceptions, the last one a floater down the middle of the field that was selected off by Cam Sutton with 29 seconds to go. Pittsburgh novice Connor Heyward ran for an initially down to assist the Steelers lack the clock.

The Raiders (6-9), coming off a significant last-play triumph over New England recently, went back to their type from previously this season by losing their 8th one-score video game of the year. They might be removed from the playoffs by the end of the week.

“We’ve pulled out plenty [of games] and then to lose in this fashion when you have a shot to win, you realize you’re close but close doesn’t really count in this league,” Las Vegas head coach Josh McDaniels stated. “I obviously have to do a better job to try and close the gap.”

It was a space the Raiders discovered themselves on the ideal side of for the very first 59-plus minutes at the second-coldest house video game in Steelers’ history.

Carr began crisply in the 8-degree (minus-13 Celsius) weather condition — the coldest house video game for the Steelers considering that 1989 — and rounded off a 14-play, 71-yard opening drive with a 14-yard goal strike to Hunter Renfrow.

Yet Las Vegas let the Steelers spend time, and Pickett — whose name was revealed by Harris when Pittsburgh took him with the 20th total choice in the 2022 draft — supplied the very first signature minute of what the Steelers hope will be an embellished profession.

“I can’t say enough about [our young offensive players], all of them,” Tomlin stated. “They showed poised and resolve and made the necessary plays. We move forward with a really good Christmas.”

The Associated Press added to this story.

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