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Steelers Legend Franco Harris Dies at 72; Hall of Famer Won Super Bowl 4 Times

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVDecember 21, 2022

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 28: Hall of Famer Franco Harris speaks during round one of the 2022 NFL Draft on April 28, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
David Becker/Getty Images

Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris died Wednesday, just three days before the Pittsburgh Steelers were set to retire his No. 32 at a ceremony Saturday night.

He was 72.

Dok Harris, Franco's son, confirmed his father's death to Will Graves of The Associated Press. No cause of death has been reported.

The Steelers were set to honor Harris over the weekend on the 50th anniversary of The Immaculate Reception, perhaps the single most iconic play in NFL history. Trailing 7-6 with 22 seconds remaining in the 1972 AFC Divisional Round matchup against the Raiders, Harris caught an errant Terry Bradshaw pass that caromed off Raiders safety Jack Tatum just inches before it hit the ground and then scampered to the end zone for a game-winning touchdown.

The Steelers would lose in the AFC Championship Game to the Miami Dolphins a week later, but that season—and arguably that catch—sparked a dynasty. Pittsburgh would win four Super Bowl championships during the 1970s, with Harris winning MVP in Super Bowl IX.

Harris ultimately played 12 seasons in Pittsburgh, making nine Pro Bowls and earning three All-Pro selections. He remains the franchise's all-time rushing leader with 11,950 yards. At the time of his retirement, Harris had the most 1,000-yard rushing seasons in NFL history (eight). That record is currently held by Emmitt Smith, who had 11 seasons of 1,000 yards rushing.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted Harris in 1990. He was also named to the NFL's 1970s All-Decade Team, the Steelers' All-Time Team and the Steelers' Hall of Honor.

"You see, during that era, each player brought their own little piece with them to make that wonderful decade happen," Harris said in his Hall of Fame speech. "Each player had their strengths and weaknesses, each their own thinking, each their own method, just each, each had their own. But then it was amazing, it all came together, and it stayed together to forge the greatest team of all times."

Despite an official retirement ceremony not being scheduled until this weekend, the Steelers had not allowed any player to wear No. 32 since Harris left the franchise.