How many Pittsburgh Steelers players have had their jerseys retired?
The Steelers retired nine-time Pro Bowler Franco Harris’ No.32 jersey in December 2022. The former running back joins a number of players whose numbers have been retired or reserved.
The Pittsburgh Steelers honored legendary running back Franco Harris by officially retiring his No.32 jersey at halftime during the Week 16 game against the Las Vegas Raiders on 24 December at the Acrisure Stadium - the 50th anniversary of his “immaculate reception”.
Harris joined the Steelers as the 13th overall pick in the first round of the NFL Draft in February 1972. A few months later, Harris was involved in what is generally considered the greatest play in NFL history. “Franco’s Immaculate Reception stands head and shoulders above all the rest. It was a miracle play that just lifted the Steelers to a new level,” Steelers President Dan Rooney said years later. Harris’s reception during the first round of the 1972 playoffs marked a seismic change in the history of the franchise.
Harris would go onto spend 12 years with the Steelers, winning four Super Bowls before leaving to join the Seattle Seahawks in 1983 - no one has worn his No.32 jersey for Pittsburgh since then. Sadly, he passed away, aged 72, on 20 December 2022 - just three days before the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.
Steelers owner Art Rooney II said of him, “It is difficult to find the appropriate words to describe Franco Harris’ impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers, his teammates, the City of Pittsburgh and Steelers Nation. From his rookie season, which included the Immaculate Reception, through the next 50 years, Franco brought joy to people on and off the field. He never stopped giving back in so many ways. He touched so many, and he was loved by so many. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Dana, his son Dok, and his extended family at this difficult time”.
The Steelers’ unveiled Harris’ number 32 jersey display ahead of the preseason game against the Buffalo Bills on 19 August 2023.
Harris and the “immaculate reception”
With 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter, on fourth down and 10 from the Steelers’ 40-yard line and with the score 7-6 in favor of the Raiders, Terry Bradshaw sent a hail mary in the direction of Frenchy Fuqua. The Steelers RB was unable to make the catch due to a crunching hit from Jack Tatum, but it fell into Harris’s hands before it hit the turf and he made it to the end zone to give Pittsburgh the win.
“This is the 50th anniversary of one of the most memorable plays in NFL history, which dare I say changed the fate of the franchise. My grandfather used to say, ‘Before Franco we didn’t win, now we don’t lose,’” said Rooney.
From 1933, when the team was founded, to 1971, Harris’ final season in Pittsburgh, the Steelers had only managed a winning record in seven seasons and had never won a game in the playoffs.
Harris, Greene and Stautner
Harris joined a select group of Steelers players to have their numbers retired, along with Joe Greene and Ernie Stautner. Greene was part of the ‘Iron Curtain’ that won four Super Bowls in the 1970s and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987. For his part, Stautner was a Steeler for 14 seasons and is also a Hall of Famer.
A number of other Steelers players’ jerseys are unofficially retired - ie. no one has taken their number since they left but they have not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.