After Further Review: Immaculate enough

After further review …

In the end, a ball was caught out of the air.


This time it was George Pickens grabbing a pass, rather than a miraculous deflection.

This time, the play was run by the numbers rather than the result of fantastic circumstance.

And this time, the Steelers improved to 7-8, which is significantly less dramatic and impactful than the franchise winning in the playoffs for the first time after 39 mostly futile campaigns.

So this wasn't quite Dec. 23, 1972 all over again.

Still, if you like to get romantic about football …

The night began with players reporting for duty in replica Franco Harris No. 32 jerseys.

A look at player arrivals before the Steelers' Week 15 game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium

Head coach Mike Tomlin wore one, too.

So did General Manager Omar Kahn.

It was apparent what this meant to the organization, that this wasn't just another game.

It included Cam Heyward sprinting out of the tunnel waving a No. 32 flag.

And it ended with a last-minute touchdown that beat the Raiders.


On this night against this team and at this time, what more could they have asked for?

"Obviously, playing for Harris, man, we want to uphold the Steelers tradition," nickel cornerback Arthur Maulet insisted. "And I think we did a good job of that."

Steelers tradition is part of the deal when you play for the Steelers.

And it meant even more this week because of Harris passing at age of 72, just days before the 50th anniversary of "The Immaculate Reception."

The cherry on top of Saturday night's sundae was the defense playing in a manner befitting the Steel Curtain while playing in honor of Franco.

Sacks, turnovers, tackles for loss … and a three-and-out when the Steelers absolutely had to have one late.

A three-and-out Tomlin counted upon when he opted to punt the ball back to the Raiders with 4:40 left in regulation.

Members of the '72 defense in attendance no doubt approved.

"I just know the Steelers tradition is just so big, man, and you have to take ownership," Maulet continued. "It's a big family, very close-knit. And the legends that came before us, you have to pay homage, you know?

"You just have to pay homage."

Maulet admittedly didn't know all he needed to about that when he joined the Steelers in 2021.

"When I came here I was asking for No. 32 because Tyrann Mathieu is a person I look up to because he's from New Orleans," Maulet, a New Orleans native, explained. "So I was like, 'Can I get No. 32?'

"The equipment dudes are laughing at me like, 'Bro, you must not know the history about this.'"

He does now.

And Maulet knew Saturday night was about the history of Franco and the Steelers as well as beating the Raiders.

Doing that again in the manner they did may still end up a historical footnote.

Doing it for Franco and in the name of Steeler Tradition might yet make Saturday night unforgettable, no matter where this season is eventually headed.

Heyward, as he often does, said it best:

"You know, Coach Tomlin doesn't like to get into dedicating a game to a certain person because it can go one or two ways," Heyward maintained. "But I think for us it was just a tip of the cap to not only just a Steeler legend, but a great man, a person in this community who you could always count on, a guy that even when he retired, he still wanted to be your teammate."

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.