#236: Year in Review - 2011
As one year dies and another is born, let's take a quick look at some of the stories in Pittsburgh-area sports.
January: The Steelers march through the playoffs, riding home field advantage to their eighth Super Bowl appearance in franchise history and third in six years. The Penguins lose their captain, Sidney Crosby, for what would end up being the rest of the regular season and playoffs.
February: The Steelers fall to Green Bay in Super Bowl XLV, thanks mostly to losing the turnover battle three-to-none. Battle lines are drawn in the NFL Labor dispute. The NHL, and especially the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders, embarrass themselves in a major brawl that turns attention to trying to fix the out-of-control fighting in hockey.
March: The Pitt Panthers go oh-fer in the Big East Tournament, then lose in the Big Dance to Butler in a foul-shooting fiasco. The city of Pittsburgh welcomes its newest professional team, the Pittsburgh Power, of the arena football league. Pens forward Matt Cooke is suspended for a dirty hit for what turns out to be the rest of the season.
April: The Penguins are eliminated in a 7-game thriller by the Tampa Bay Lightning, blowing a 3-1 series lead in the process. UConn wins the NCAA tournament as Butler comes up short for the second year in a row. The Pirates start the year off in promising fashion, thanks mostly to their pitching.
May: Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall makes some controversion comments on his Twitter account regarding the killing of Osama bin Laden. Penguin fans wait to find out of their team will bring back Jaromir Jagr. We prepared for the Rapture (Part One).
June: The Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup. The Dallas Mavericks win the NBA title. Closer to home, the Pirates are putting forth a consistent effort and starting to draw fans. The wife of injured catcher Chris Snyder is attacked at a gas station. Sidney Crosby is cleared to begin off-season workouts. The Steelers take another look at wide receiver Plaxico Burress after his release from prison.
July: The Pirates reach first place in July, and ultimately send three players to the All-Star game (two participate). Then, the "safe call" in Atlanta begins their demise. The Pittsburgh Power, in its inaugural season, is in shape to qualify for the playoffs. The NFL ends its lockout, but not before Steelers linebacker James Harrison airs some dirty laundry in a magazine.
August: The Steelers lock up key parts of their defense. The Pirates draft and sign their top two draft picks while the major league club enters free-fall. The Pitt Panthers and West Virginia Mountaineers are picked to finish as the top two teams in the Big East in the preseason polls.
September: Pitt football introduces its "high-octane" offense. Super Bowl XL referee Bill Leavy officiates the Steelers/Seahawks game at Heinz Field, causing Seattle fans (and Pittsburgh haters) continue to spout their ignorance of football. Pirates fall completely flat and seal their 19th consecutive losing season. The Civic Arena approaches demolition. The Pitt Panthers (along with the Syracuse Orange) prepare to depart from the Big East to the ACC.
October: The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series in seven games after overcoming two late-inning deficits in Game 6. The West Virginia Mountaineers prepare to depart for the Big 12 conference, then sues (and is sued by) the Big East Conference. Sidney Crosby finally cleared for contact drills.
November: Scandal rocks Penn State as former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is indicted on multiple child sex abuse charges, and long-time head coach Joe Paterno is fired in the fallout. The Steelers are swept by the Ravens, setting the stage for the rest of the year. Sidney Crosby returns to the Penguins line-up, scoring twice in his return. Pitt basketball loses to Long Beach state, snapping a 58-game non-conference winning streak at the Petersen Events Center.
December: After just 7 games, Sidney Crosby is off the ice again with post-concussion symptoms. The Pirates sign third baseman Casey McGehee as insurance for Pedro Alvarez. Pitt head coach Todd Graham bolts for Arizona State - the Panthers then hire Paul Chryst, formerly offensive coordinator at Wisconsin.
As a sports broadcaster, I can only hope that 2012 has as many ups and downs. As a human being, I could deal with fewer downs.
Happy New Year to Allah Yinz (you didn't know that was Allah's last name, did you?)!
On today's show:
- Steelers have one more chance to "steel" the division.
- Penguins lead the NHL in a key statistic.
- WVU needs to focus on shutting down Clemson's RB Andre Ellington.
- Deja vu. 1-1 again on my NFL Picks (15-16-1 overall).