If you want to know how much Cam Heyward means to the fabric of the Pittsburgh Steelers, just ask Franco Harris’ wife Dana. After the tragic news of Harris’ death days before his number was to be retired during the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, Dana asked Heyward to be one of the pallbearers at Franco’s funeral.
Joining 93.7 The Fan’s Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller Wednesday afternoon, Heyward discussed learning of Harris’ death and how the team got themselves mentally ready to play that weekend’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders.
“I had gotten a text the next morning on my way to work hearing that Franco passed. And I’m like, ‘no, I just spoke to Franco.’ Franco looked healthy and I was not ready for that moment. And then [Dana] asked me and a couple other guys to be pallbearers and I wasn’t ready for that as well.”
Heyward was one of the last people to speak to Harris. As Heyward told the show, he made a last-minute request to have Harris on his Not Just Football podcast that Harris’ happily accepted hours before his death. Initially, the episode was not released but after talking with the Harris’ family, they gave their blessing to release the episode.
Days later, the Steelers were getting ready for a primetime game against the Raiders. One that meant so much for the season, a must-win game for Pittsburgh, but one that meant so much more than that.
Heyward says Mike Tomlin downplayed the idea of dedicating the game to Harris – telling the story that Tomlin once dedicated a game in high school only to be blown out – but Heyward and the other Steelers’ leaders knew they couldn’t lose this one.
“I’m looking at T.J. and I’m looking at guys, I’m like, that ain’t happening. This is Franco. This is one of ours. When you wear the black and gold, you know Franco is part of this, so you better appreciate it and you better go out out there and make sure we take care of business.”
The Steelers played a tightly-contested game. But the defense held up their end of the bargain, keeping the score down i the second half until Kenny Pickett led a game-winning drive with less than a minute to go. Personally, Heyward had his best game of the season and embraced what the game meant to the team and the city. An incredible win and night that’ll be remembered for years.
Days later, Harris’ funeral was held with Heyward one of several people to lay him to rest.
“We had about six guys and everybody was just very honored to just be there in that moment.”