The most highly anticipated event of the season was the 50th anniversary celebration of the Immaculate Reception, voted the greatest play in NFL history in the league's 100-year celebration in 2020.
The Steelers were slated to face their old nemesis, the Raiders, in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1972 play that announced the dynasty of the 1970s and was the first playoff win in franchise history.
The game was slated to take place on Christmas Eve, one day after the actual 50th anniversary of the game. And as part of the celebration, the team announced it would retire the No. 32 of Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris – the architect of the Immaculate Reception – in a halftime ceremony.
Tragically, Harris passed away just three days before the Steelers were set to make his jersey the third retired number in franchise history and two days before the actual golden anniversary of the play.
The weather also turned for the worse, as temperatures dipped to sub-zero levels in the days leading up to the game. Officially, the temperature at kickoff had risen to 8 degrees, making it the second-coldest home game in franchise history.
But the thousands who braved the freezing temperatures at Acrisure Stadium were treated not only to a celebration of Harris' life and the Immaculate Reception, but a nice comeback by the Steelers, as well.
With chants of "Franco" breaking out at various times throughout the game, the Steelers rallied to score with 46 seconds remaining on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Kenny Pickett to fellow rookie George Pickens to lift the Steelers to a 13-10 victory.
"I'm not going to try to put it in that neighborhood," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said when asked if the conclusion compared to the Immaculate Reception. "Not even in that city. But it was a nice play."
It capped off an emotional night that included players wearing Harris' No. 32 jerseys to the stadium and a halftime ceremony in which team president Art Rooney II presented his widow, Dana, and son, Dok, a Harris jersey with a number of Steelers alumni on hand.
"The big man was supposed to be standing right here next to me," Rooney said during the number retirement ceremony. "But I want to thank Dana and Dok for being here tonight, for sharing Franco with us for the last 50 years.
"It's been said, 'Life will bring you sorrow, but it's up to us to bring the joy.' Franco brought us joy for 50 years. So, in recognition of his many contributions, both on and off the field, it's my honor to declare No. 32 as officially retired."
- Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast
Harris joined Joe Greene and Ernie Stautner as the only players in Steelers history to have their numbers retired.
Tomlin addressed the media after the game wearing (what else?) a Franco Harris jersey.
"We had a chance to be a part of Steelers history," Tomlin said. "We don't take that lightly. We're so appreciative for the ground that has been laid by those that have come before us – like the man whose jersey I'm wearing right here."