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Immaculate Reception stands alone

7/21/2014

I wrote following a fan vote for the most memorable play in Pittsburgh Steelers history that all were vying for second place behind Franco Harris’ “Immaculate Reception.”

That turned out to be true for every other NFL team as well.

Harris’ galloping touchdown after making a shoestring catch of a desperation pass – one that had caromed backwards -- won ESPN.com’s bracket challenge for the most memorable play in NFL history.

The Immaculate Reception beat Dwight Clark’s touchdown catch that launched the San Francisco 49ers’ dynasty in the early 1980s, capturing 52 percent of the fan vote over a three-day period.

Harris’ play was the last one standing despite some stiff competition, confirming how enduring it is -- and that it transcends the Steelers and even Pittsburgh.

The play as ESPN.com NFL columnist Kevin Seifert wrote had a little bit of everything: drama, a great individual effort and intrigue.

We may never know if Terry Bradshaw’s pass first touched Steelers running back Frenchy Fuqua, which would have made Harris’ reception an illegal one, despite Zapruderesque dissection of the play.

The controversy over the final play -- and the Steelers' 13-7 win over the Raiders at Three Rivers Stadium -- touched off a rivalry that shaped the 1970s.

And while the Steelers lost the following week in the AFC championship game to the Miami Dolphins no less an authority than Dan Rooney has said Harris’ catch and game-winning touchdown gave the franchise hope and belief.

It might be difficult for a younger generation of Steelers fans to believe but Pittsburgh was badly in need of both before the Immaculate Reception. The Steelers had never won a playoff game before Harris’ miraculous catch and run.

Since beating the Raiders in 1972, two days before Christmas, the Steelers have won 32 times in the postseason and six Super Bowls.