It’s easy to say now, in the days after a 13-10 victory over the Raiders at Acrisure Stadium on Saturday night, that the Steelers simply had no choice but to win a game that not only commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception but honored the late, great running back who starred in the play.
But it’s kind of true.
I don’t know about you, but it was heartbreaking to watch Franco Harris’s widow and son as they stood in the middle of Acrisure Stadium with owner Art Rooney II at halftime of Saturday’s game to officially retire Harris’s No. 32 jersey without him there to enjoy the moment.
I felt bad for Dana and Dok Harris.
It would have been one thing if they were at Acrisure to celebrate Harris’s life and legacy months after his passing, but to have to be on hand to do it just days after it occurred—and with both likely still reeling from such an unexpected death of someone so close to them—had to be so hard to process and get through.
That’s why I feel like the Steelers had no choice but to pull that game out at all costs.
Yes, the victory only improved the Steelers' record to 7-8 and knocked Las Vegas’s mark down to 6-9—a far cry from where both teams were when they met in that legendary divisional-round playoff game 50 years and one day earlier—but it just had to happen.
One can argue that it didn’t matter, and if you put things into the proper perspective, you’re absolutely right. I’m pretty sure the victory didn’t bring much happiness to Dana and Dok Harris, not so soon after Franco’s passing. However, I can’t imagine them having to be on hand for what was supposed to be a night of celebration, only for it to turn into one of mourning, and then have the Steelers turn around and lose the game in the end.
Did the victory improve the Steelers’ playoff chances? Yes, but not by much at all. Will it matter in the standings when all is said and done? Not likely. Will we really remember anything about Saturday’s game, other than the somber feeling that enveloped Acrisure Stadium like the freezing cold that took hold in the area just one day prior? Let’s just say, there weren’t many plays that occurred during the game that would remind one of the Immaculate Reception.
But the Steelers simply had to win that game. They had to do it for Franco and those that were closest to him. There really was no other choice.