Franco Harris ‘Blown Away’ By Steelers Choosing To Retire His Jersey

For the first 90 years of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ franchise, only two players had ever had their jerseys retired. Just one of those came over the past 50 and both, DTs Ernie Stautner and Joe Greene, came on the defensive side of the ball. But this Christmas Eve, Franco Harris will become the third Steeler to receive such an honor, the first offensive player to ever do it. Speaking to reporters after Art Rooney II made the announcement, Harris tried to put into words what the honor meant.

“In my wildest dreams, I never expected it,” Harris said Tuesday via the Steelers’ YouTube channel. “And it never crossed my mind. It just wasn’t something that was top of mind that you think about. You know the Steelers don’t retire numbers so you don’t any thoughts about it. So when Art mentioned it to me, I was blown away. I mean, that was a ‘wow’ moment and unbelievable.”

Pittsburgh’s first jersey number retirement came in 1964 for Ernie Stautner’s #70, the first and for 75+ years, the only Steeler to receive such an honor. Despite all the great players of the 70s, the Steelers opted against officially retiring jerseys for decades, preferring to “unofficially” retire them. That meant not issuing the number again to another player but never officially putting it to bed. That changed in 2014 when Joe Greene saw his #75 retired. Now Harris joins them as the third, and that elite company isn’t lost on him.

“There are so many deserving people of this. It is quite an honor to be the first offensive player have their jersey retired. To be alongside of Joe Green and Ernie Stautner. It’s about the time we had an offensive guy on there, you know what I mean?” Harris jokingly said.

Though Pittsburgh’s retired two jerseys in less than a decade, owner Art Rooney II cautioned these moments would still be “rare” occasions. With just two players from the 70s seeing their number retired, Harris is taking the moment as a celebration of all the teammates who helped the Steelers win.

“It represents the seventies and my teammates. We just had incredible people.”

While the focus now should be on Harris and his incredible accomplishments, it’s fair to wonder who the next in line would be. Perhaps someone else from the 70s like Jack Lambert or Mel Blount. Ben Roethlisberger seems like a great modern era player to choose, while Troy Polamalu is also an excellent option. There will eventually be a fourth jersey retired. For now, Harris is the third, and he’s well-deserving of a remarkable career that helped re-shape the Steelers’ franchise.

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