Steelers Throwback Thursday: Franco Harris’s top 4 playoff moments with Pittsburgh
Steel City Underground takes fans back in time to feature events, special moments, and historical times and players in the world of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Steelers Nation. Join us as we revisit these moments in our “Steelers Throwback Thursday” series.
With the NFL entering it’s AFC and NFC Championship games this weekend, we thought it’d be fun to hop into our virtual time machine and go back in time to look at running back Franco Harris‘ top four playoff moments with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The fact that Harris played in 19 NFL playoff games with the Steelers made picking just four memorable performances a tough task. Beginning in 1972, after being selected in the NFL Draft, Harris helped carry – literally – the Steelers all the way to the conference championship game against the famous ’72 Miami Dolphins team; Pittsburgh lost, 17-21.
Harris helped the Steelers in the playoffs from 1973 – 1979 (all years that he earned Pro Bowl nominations, as well), and then in 1982 and 1983. It’s not surprising that he is one of the most memorable and well-respected men to play professional football, landing in the Hall of Fame before his untimely death in December 2022.
The “Immaculate Reception” will always be remembered as one of the most amazing plays in the NFL that Harris was a part of, but it wasn’t his only great playoff moment.
1. First post-season receiving TD
To cap off his rookie season, Harris grabbed his first – and only – receiving touchdown during post-season play. The Steelers went head-to-head with the Oakland Raiders (December 23, 1972) and won the divisional round game, 13-7.
The first points put on the scoreboard by either team was when Roy Gerela successfully kicked a field goal in the third quarter of the game. He would then add three more points via a field goal in the final quarter.
In the fourth quarter, quarterback Terry Bradshaw unleashed the famous pass that would become the “Immaculate Reception” for the remainder of NFL history. When Harris caught the ball, intended for “Frenchy” Fuqua, just inches from the turf and ran it into the end zone, it went into the books as a 60-yard reception.
2. Six playoff touchdowns in ’74
Following a 1974 regular season in which Harris carried the ball for a, then, career high 208 times for 1,006 yards and five touchdowns, Harris started in all three of the Steelers’ playoffs games at fullback.
Against the Buffalo Bills (December 22), Harris carried the ball 24 times for 74 yards and three rushing touchdowns.
Against the Raiders (December 29), Harris earned 111 yards on 29 carries. He scored two rushing touchdowns in the 24-13 win that sent Pittsburgh to the Super Bowl, where Harris grabbed another rushing touchdown.
3. Super Bowl IX MVP
The Steelers fought their way to the Super Bowl in 1974 by grabbing the AFC Central division crown, a 10-3-1 regular season record, and wins over the Bills (divisional round) and Raiders (AFC conference championship) to face the Minnesota Vikings.
In the Super Bowl, Harris – in just his third professional season – ran the ball 34 times for 158 yards. Harris also scored the lone rushing touchdown by either team in the game. That stat line earned Harris the Super Bowl MVP award.
4. 214 and 148
The Steelers began using Harris more heavily in their passing offense as teams around the league transitioned from primarily running the ball down their opponents’ throats. In 1979, Pittsburgh was once more in the hunt for a Super Bowl championship.
During post-season play, Harris recorded his career-high playoff reception yardage with Pittsburgh at 148 yards on 14 catches. He also carried the ball 62 times for 214 yards and three touchdowns in the three playoff games, including Super Bowl XIV against the Los Angeles Rams (January 20, 1980).
While it’s unlikely to ever become a highlight-reel play, Harris did attempt one pass in his career, but it was during the regular season (1978)… and it fell incomplete. That may have been for the best.
All total, Harris scored 17 times in the playoffs for the Steelers and helped Pittsburgh bring home their first four Lombardi trophies. It was the beginning of a dynasty that will long be remembered by fans of the National Football League.