This has certainly been an interesting offseason, in a number of different ways. Completely ignoring the microscopic elephant clearing the room and forcing people to don masks, one of the head-scratching things for the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans this offseason has been the number of classic players from their dynasty era giving interviews in which they recall being disappointed to be drafted by the Steelers.
Jack Ham and Terry Bradshaw have already done so. Who knows, there may have been others I have missed. Recently, Franco Harris did so as well. Speaking on The Fan, he said, “I did not want to come to Pittsburgh, that was the big thing. That was last on my list”.
“When I got that call, ‘congratulations, you’re drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers’, it was like, ‘no! I can’t believe this!”, he went on. This was in 1972, of course, and by that point in their franchise history, they had never won a playoff game. Their only playoff appearance was a 1947 Divisional Round loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
And that was only an extraneous tie-breaker game to determine who would play the Chicago Bears, winners of the West conference, because the Steelers and Eagles both finished 8-4. Think of that playoff game more like the MLB’s divisional tie-breaker game. In seasons with no tied records, that game doesn’t even exist, and there is only the championship, the winners of the East and West facing each other.
“Here I am, up at Penn State for four years, and I wanted to go out more”, he said, a remark similar to that made by Ham. “I didn’t want to drive down the road to two to three hours to go to my new place. I wanted to go to Miami, Dallas, LA, you know what I mean?”.
“But wow, did it work out okay”, he added. Harris, of course, would go on to have a Hall of Fame career, winning four Super Bowls as their starting running back, and collecting a Super Bowl MVP trophy along the way.
Harris was a nine-time Pro Bowler, in every year from his first in 1972 through the 1980 season. He was also a three-time All-Pro, a member of the 1970s All-Decade Team, and the NFL Man of the Year in 1976. He also authored what is frequently regarded as the greatest or most iconic play in NFL history.
The 13th overall pick in that draft, he would prove to be the only player selected that year to go to the Hall of Fame. 442 players were drafted that year through 17 rounds. And Harris didn’t even have any idea he would be a first-round pick. He was the Offensive Rookie of the Year, and helped the Steelers win their first playoff game in team history with the Immaculate Reception.