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Steelers unveil Immaculate monument

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By John Grupp
Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012, 7:24 p.m.

Even more Steelers fans can now claim they saw the Immaculate Reception.

The Steelers unveiled a monument to one of the most famous plays in NFL history on Saturday, the eve of the 40th anniversary of Franco Harris' miracle, last-second touchdown to beat the Oakland Raiders in the 1972 AFC playoffs.

The 34- by 54-inch, 340-pound bronze plaque is on West General Robinson Street between Stage AE and Heinz Field at the spot in now-demolished Three Rivers Stadium where Harris made his fingertip, shoe-top catch. The Hall of Fame running back is shown eluding the outstretched arms of a Raiders defender.

“It's a great day, and it's still a great feeling,” Harris said at the ceremony, which was attended by about 400 fans, along with former Steelers players and executives, including co-owner Dan Rooney and Hall of Famer Joe Greene.

A bronze inlay of Harris' size 10 12 cleat is in front of the plaque, and granite inserts in the gray-dyed sidewalk represent the hash marks and out-of-bounds markers. A large “30” etched into the sidewalk signifies the long-gone yard line.

The monument, designed and built by Pittsburgh-based Matthews International, was a nine-month project privately funded by Allegheny Technologies, the Senator John Heinz History Center and the Steelers.

Josh Rooney, director of sales and marketing for Matthews International and a cousin of Steelers President Art Rooney II, said marking the spot of former Three Rivers Stadium was crucial to the design.

“That was always Art's intent,” he said. “People need to know where it was.”

Former Raiders linebacker Phil Villapiano attended the event and, in good nature, questioned the validity of Harris' touchdown while speaking a couple of feet from the monument.

“I think this is my statue,” he said, gently tapping the trunk of a small tree, “because I got clipped right at this tree. This should be my statue.”

Former Steeler John “Frenchy” Fuqua — quarterback Terry Bradshaw's intended target — did nothing to quell the controversy as he walked through the crowd after the ceremony. Fuqua pulled down his jacket to reveal the back of his T-shirt.

It read, in big, gold-on-black letters: “I'll Never Tell.”

John Grupp is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He can be reached or 412-320-7930.

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