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Immaculate Celebration: Steelers to Wear Throwbacks and Patch, Retire No. 32

When the 2022 NFL schedule was announced, sharp-eyed observers noted that the Steelers would be hosting the Raiders on Dec. 24 — 50 years, almost to the day, after those same two teams figured in the famed Immaculate Reception, which took place on Dec. 23, 1972. I figured the Steelers would probably wear their block-numbered throwbacks for that game, although a team spokesman declined comment on that when I asked him about it.

It turns out that they’re doing that and more. The Steelers today announced three uni-related initiatives for that December game against the Raiders:

  • They will indeed wear the block-numbered throwbacks.
  • The throwback jerseys will carry a commemorative patch (shown in the photo above), featuring a silhouetted image of Franco Harris scooping up the Immaculate Reception.
  • They will retire Harris’s No. 32 (which I’m surprised they hadn’t done already).

I’ve added all of this to my 2022 NFL Season Preview, which was published on Bulletin earlier today. My Premium Subscribers can read the NFL Preview here. If you haven’t yet subscribed, you now have three ways to get on board:


Comments (35)

    Ha haaa, if that happened now, they would need a 15-minute replay review before deciding anything.

    I hate replay. I’d rather get screwed on a bad call than sit through this junk. And it’s much worse in college, where they look at plays without any prompting from the coaches. And the targeting nonsense has just gotten out of hand.

    A little OT but to your point on the targeting – it seems like College Football is reeling that back in a little this year. I saw a couple of targeting calls waived off this past weekend as the new directive is to eject only if the crown of the helmet is used to make contact. The facemask-first tackling we learned as kids in the 80s and 90s appears to be legal again. I’m glad senses seem to be returning to some.

    If it happened today, there is a fair chance that video replay would have shown it to be incomplete. There is no clear view from the available footage. Unless you’re a Raiders fan, this is best left unspoiled by video review. And we’ll never know.

    Love your last sentence… “and we’ll never know.” The lack of clear video on the catch itself, did it bounce off Fuqua or Tatum? Did the referees bail out? All these little elements of mystique are what make it the best play in NFL history.

    Replay review is so frustrating. Bad for the viewing experience. Now, I can’t even celebrate a TD — It’s like a half celebration, because I know a video review is coming and that the call might get overturned.

    Well for your information, when this happened, at a time WITHOUT replay review, that WAS a 15 minute delay.
    Look at the things John Madden said about this, he was less upset about the call itself, but that it took so darn long to make! The ref went into the dugout to make a phone call!

    But lets be real here, even if the ball had bounced away harmlessly, the same exact play today would result in a flag, for hitting the receiver in the head.

    Today, this would have been ruled a touchdown right away, and a 15-yard + first down penalty being declined.


    It’s not *just* the italic font. It’s the Futura Condensed Italic that’s bad. Block numbers looked (and look) so much better.

    I agree with Phil. And it always been weird to me that they would adopt on the jersey a font they happened to be using for player numbers on their helmets.

    But the italics are from 1997.. I hate to tell you this, but I think you may also be stuck in the past. Just a different one!

    I’m a Steelers hater but the block numbers are such an obvious upgrade to me. They even sensibly put them on the color rush uniforms.

    I like the Futura Condensed, but maybe not italicized. Slanted numbers on a football jersey make it look like it shrank in the wash.

    Block numbers look better, but the round italic numbers look more uniquely Steelers, to me. Both have their upsides.

    In terms of the Franco Harris number retirement, just like I, too, think “They haven’t done that yet!” I thought the same thing about the Dodgers dedicating a Sandy Koufax statue this summer.

    They hadn’t done that yet???

    It hasn’t been issued since Franco left in 1984, which makes it one of about ten numbers that are unofficially retired. In December, of course, it will become the third officially retired number, along with Ernie Stautner’s 70 and Joe Greene’s 75.

    As a life-long Steelers fan, I always thought it was always the “unofficialness” of their retired number policy for the Steel Curtain-era that made it so damn cool. Now, it’s like they’re just like everyone else. Oh, well. Either way, good for Mean Joe, and good for Franco. -C.

    As a Steeler fan since the 70s, of course I prefer the block numbers…they are not just any numbers, but the famous Sand Knit font I wrote a piece on last summer. Seeing the jersey from the announcement, the front numbers look accurate, but the TV numbers look too narrow, but it is hard to tell and maybe they will get them correct.


    Yes! If there is one thing I “don’t get” in the uni-verse is the big need to have different color facemasks.

    No way.

    Not even for teams with gray/silver in their schemes, or even throwbacks.


    So many comments above to address! Haha

    1) As a Steelers fan that grew up in the 90s, I truly, genuinely have no preference whatsoever on block vs italic numbers. I think the italic looked better pre-Nike, but I really think going back to block numbers is not a big deal in either direction. The only piece I feel strongly about is keeping the logo on the chest: HAVE to have it going forward, no matter what we make or keep as our primary. Only makes sense to not have it to keep the throwback accurate.

    2) Gray facemasks when we throw back, yes. But absolutely do not go back to them fulltime. All these folks who want every team to have gray masks all the time are weird. There are SO many teams that look better with colored masks, namely the 49ers and Colts. The Bills did well to go to white full-time (though they’d look even better with blue) and the Giants would do well to go back to white full-time.

    3) #32 hadn’t been retired yet because the only number that’d been “officially” retired by the team was Joe Greene’s #75. A few other numbers have been out of circulation for a bit like #12 and #58, but aren’t retired. Frankly, I’m surprised they decided to retire #32 BEFORE some of these other uncirculated ones.

    We need bigger numbers again on the front and the back of jerseys in both football and basketball. Nothing to do with me wearing glasses, it just stinks to have these small numbers in both sports. Big and bold, in any font. Having said that, this jersey is beautiful.

    There is a faction of Steeler Nation that feels there should be no other number retirements beyond Ernie Stautner and Joe Greene. Even a few players (including some who would be candidates to have their number retired) have gone on record as saying so.

    The logic is that Ernie Stautner was the greatest player of the pre-championship era of Steeler football, and Joe Greene is widely considered the greatest Steeler ever. Then, just one tier below Joe Greene are about a dozen or so great players (many of whom all played together in the 70s) who are probably all worthy of number retirements. But retiring those numbers would bring about one or two scenarios:

    1. There would be so many number retirements, that the honor would be somewhat cheapened, especially when you consider that this franchise only retired 2 numbers in their first 85 years, and only 1 over 75+ years.

    2. At some point a line would have to be drawn, and there have been so many great Steelers over the years that more likely than not, someone deserving of having their number retired would get slighted.

    With 32 being retired the following numbers need to join it: 12, 47, 52, 58, 59, 26, 43 and 7, FTR not a Steelers fan nor a hater.

    And today it would have been “Call stands.”

    I actually gotta say, seeing the block number jersey in comparison to the italics jersey, I actually prefer the italics. Probably because I only see the block number jerseys in grainy archive footage of Terry Bradshaw misspelling CAT when he was spotted the A and the T.

    Idk it just looks somehow out of place in the modern NFL and also like a college team. It’s wild. See what time does to you.

    There are actually people who believe the Immaculate Reception would have been ruled incomplete? Seriously? Do you people have eyes? The pass clearly bounced off of Tatum. He could have intercepted it or just knocked it down. Instead, he decided to put the blind side hit on Frenchy, which would be a penalty today. Everyone conveniently forgets that part. Franco was in the right place at the right time, touchdown, game over.

    The current numerals and black facemasks are fine. I would not have a problem with yellow facemasks either. More teams should use colored facemasks to add a splash of color to the uniform, IMO.

    If the Steelers are going to start retiring more numbers, just retire numbers for players who are in the HOF. That would be 17 numbers for players that spent all or most of their careers with the Steelers. This is why I don’t like retiring numbers.

    Interesting choice to use a Mitchell & Ness jersey to unveil the patch, instead of official (Nike) ones that will be worn on-field. Can’t say that I’ve seen that before.

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