History Lesson : The Immaculate Reception

One reception. That’s all it took to turn the tide for the once-woeful Steelers.

Can you even believe that in 1972, after 40 years in business, the Steelers had only been to the playoffs once? And that first appearance had been way back in 1947 –  a 21-0 beat down by the Eagles? And that since then, the Steelers now have more Super Bowl trophies than any other team in the NFL?

Crazy. Downtrodden teams: take heart. Things change.

Things changed for the Steelers in their second playoff game, a 1972 game against the Raiders. It had been a low scoring affair, only 7-6 with 22 seconds left in the 4th quarter. Then this happened:

So…valid touchdown? Or not a touchdown?

It depends on who you talk to.

The rule in that era was that a ball could not bounce from one offensive player to another without a defensive player touching it in between. The Steelers hold to the belief that the ball bounced off of Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum before Steelers running back Franco Harris caught the deflection. The Raiders, however, believe that the ball bounced off of Steelers running back Frenchy Fuqua without ever touching Tatum.

The ref sided with the Steelers and awarded them the game-winning touchdown. Thanks to another history lesson post, we know that the Steelers didn’t win that game and go all the way to a Super Bowl victory. They were beaten by the infamous ’72 Dolphins in the Conference Championship round. The Dolphins would win that Super Bowl and the next, but the Steelers would win the two after that…and a few more to follow.

Quite a turn around for a team with two playoff appearances in 40 years.

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