2022 Steelers Season Recall: Pittsburgh pays tribute to Franco with Christmas Eve anniversary win

Steel City Underground presents our 2022 Steelers Recall: a look back at Pittsburgh Steelers games and storylines from last season.

A day set aside for celebration ended up as a somber remembrance of a Steelers legend.

The NFL set aside a special date on the 2022 regular season calendar, between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Las Vegas Raiders, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception” game between the two franchises.

Unless you’re new to being a Steelers fan, the improbably game-winning play – made by running back Franco Harris – was the beginning of the 1970’s Pittsburgh dynasty, as well as one of the most controversial plays in the league history.

The matchup was set for a primetime Christmas Eve showdown with the added pomp and circumstance of the Steelers organization announcing that Harris’ uniform number, 32, would be retired at halftime. Unfortunately, Harris would pass away during the week leading up to the event, leaving a bittersweet taste for the ceremonies ahead.

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For the game itself, the team wore special patches on classic block-numbered jerseys. Also, for the first time in perhaps Heinz Field/Acrisure Stadium history, the endzones were painted gold to match the theme from the setting 50 years earlier inside of the Steelers old venue, Three Rivers Stadium.

The game itself was a litmus test to see if a very young Pittsburgh team (based on average age of players on both sides of the ball) could stand under bright lights and the microscope and put everything together. The Steelers were 4-2 since their bye week and seemingly turning their season around.

A victory against the Raiders would see them back in the playoff hunt. A loss would see their chances all but eliminated for the 2022 season.

The Raiders struck first with QB Derek Carr hitting WR Hunter Renfrow for a 14-yard pass midway through the first quarter. The Steelers would fail to answer until after the two minute warning, as Chris Boswell made up for a missed a field goal earlier in the second quarter with a 44-yard conversion.

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Pittsburgh’s defense allowed Las Vegas to jump right back into the game and score off of a Dan Carlson 40-yard boot to leave the advantage to the Raiders at 10-3 heading into halftime. It would be the last time the defense faltered.

Pittsburgh didn’t allow Las Vegas’ offense to gain more than 20 yards on any other possessions except one afterwards.

The Steelers limited the league’s leading rusher, Josh Jacobs, to just 44 yards on 15 carries. They gave up just two receptions for 15 yards to Davante Adams who entered the game with 1,200-plus yards receiving and an NFL-leading 12 touchdown catches.

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It was all Steelers from that point forward, though the freezing fans (it was eight degrees with a minus-ten wind chill at kickoff) were frozen out of any scoring from both sides in the third period. Chris Boswell would miss another kick in the frigid climate before adding another 40-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, setting up the Steelers trailing from behind by one point.

The Steelers topped the 100-yard rushing mark for the sixth time in their last seven games since the bye week, this time with 106 yards on the ground. Najee Harris led all rushers with 53 yards, while Connor Heyward added a 21-yard long that sealed the game at the end, when a crucial first down was needed.

While Matt Canada fixed the run game, which had been a weakness up until the bye week, Pittsburgh’s offense still struggled to move the ball with 5:56 remaining. The Raiders were equally unable to generate much offense on the evening either, also going three-and-out, setting the stage for rookie Kenny Pickett to lead his team with a come from behind victory.

Pickett would complete 7 of his 9 pass attempts for 75 yards, adding a one-yard quarterback scramble on fourth down to a ten-play drive which culminated with the young QB finding fellow rookie WR George Pickens for a 14-yard touchdown strike as the Steelers took a 13-10 lead with less than one minute remaining in the game.

Pickett’s QB rating during that drive? 132.14.


The Steelers defense terrorized Carr all night, with the veteran quarterback throwing his third interception of the game in his team’s final possession. He would finish the game completing 53.3% of his passes for 174 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions and a 42.2 QB rating.

The clutch victory would be Pittsburgh’s seventh win of the season with a final margin of 13-10. Next up? A return match with the Ravens, but in Baltimore and now flexed to Sunday Night Football to see which team can keep their postseason hopes alive.

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