PITTSBURGH — Former Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth made some key catches on the final drive against the Raiders, but his idea to honor the late Franco Harris before the game became a viral gesture. The Steelers all wore No. 32 Harris jerseys into the stadium today, an ode to honor the Harris.
Head coach Mike Tomlin, who took to the podium for his postgame press conference wearing Harris’ No. 32 jersey, said the idea that was Freiermuth’s as a special way to honor Harris after his death.
“Penn State man, Pat Freiermuth,” Tomlin said. “I was sitting with him on the back patio on Wednesday, we were getting ready to get to go to practice, and it was his suggestion.”
Freiermuth had a close relationship with fellow former Penn State football star Harris. They went out to dinner together and had gatherings. Freiermuth became close with Harris and his wife, Dana, and Harris came on his radio show as a frequent guest throughout their relationship. Those roots date all the way back to Penn State, and Freiermuth wanted to honor his friend.
“You know, as a connection, he was so good to me,” Freiermuth said. “It was the least we could do for someone that has done something so big for everyone on this team. He was always there for us.”
The win meant a lot more for the players, who thought the bow was tied together by the final drive. Pat Freiermuth contributed to that, and the tribute to his friend shone through in a gritty win that players badly wanted to pull out.
“I think for us it was just a tip of a cap to not only just a Steeler legend, but a great man, a person in this community who you could always count on, a guy that even when he retired, he still wanted to be your teammate,” Heyward said.
Freiermuth and the team played with heavy hearts, but in the end, they came out with a win on the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.