PITTSBURGH — The 2020s are about to start, so why not relive some of the best sports moments Pittsburgh had to offer in the 2010s?
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In no particular order, here are five of the best Pittsburgh sports moments of this decade:
The Pittsburgh Penguins accomplished something no team had done in the NHL’s salary cap era when they took care of the Nashville Predators in six games. The Penguins also became the second team since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings to win back-to-back cups. Sidney Crosby was the playoffs’ most valuable player both times, and a fantastic supporting cast of Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang (in 2016) and a combination of Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray propelled them. They dealt with injuries to several key players and a coaching change but thrived through it all. Patric Hornqvist’s game-winning goal with about a minute to go in Game 6 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final capped off an incredible two-year run of greatness for this all-time team.
The 2010s had plenty of disappointments for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Christmas Day 2016 will always be special in team history. The Baltimore Ravens had a chance to spoil the Steelers’ hopes of winning the AFC North, but thanks to a miraculous comeback in the second half, Pittsburgh sent its fans home ecstatic. Trailing by three points with 78 seconds to play, Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers on a 10-play drive – which was capped off by a great individual effort by one of the team’s most polarizing figures. Brown looked like he would come up short of the goal line (and subsequently end the game with the clock running) but his second-effort stretched the ball into the end zone to win it. The Steelers would lose to New England in the AFC Championship game that season.
Crosby returned to the Penguins’ lineup on Nov. 21, 2011 after missing nearly a year because of a concussion that many thought would cut his career short. He didn’t last long in his first return (missing another three months after playing in eight games) but the electricity in CONSOL Energy Center that night cannot be underestimated. It was similar to Mario Lemieux’s return from retirement a decade earlier. Crosby scored on his second shift and finished with two goals and two assists. He gave the fans a show that night, one that some skeptics thought they’d never see again.
Few moments have shaken PPG Paints Arena the way Kunitz’s game-winning, series-clinching, knuckling, double-overtime goal against the Ottawa Senators did. You’d be hard-pressed to find another, in fact. It was the drama of NHL playoffs at its finest. The entire game had the sellout crowd on pins and needles, as it was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. When Crosby found Kunitz at the top of the circle, it felt like slow-motion. The knuckleball of a shot beat goalie Craig Anderson, and the arena went into a frenzy. The Penguins were without Letang and struggled to score, but they somehow found a way to get to their second straight Cup Final.
CUEEEEEETO. CUEEEEEETO. It had been 21 years since the Pittsburgh Pirates had seen postseason baseball, or a winning record for that matter. And when the Pirates hosted the Cincinnati Reds in the 2013 NL Wild Card, all the frustration and agony seemed to be let out all at once – in a harmonious, echoing chant. After Marlon Byrd homered to put the Pirates up 1-0 in the second inning, the black-out crowd at PNC Park started mocking Reds’ pitcher Johnny Cueto by chanting his last name. As he was collecting himself on the mound, the baseball fell to the ground. The crowd cheered and chanted even louder. On the next pitch, Russell Martin launched the ball over the left-field wall and sent the sellout crowd into an even larger frenzy. That crowd hung on every pitch and chanted CUETO until he was pulled from the game. The Pirates rolled to a 6-2 victory and would lose in the NLDS in five games to St. Louis. However, the Cueto chant will forever be remembered by Pirates’ fans.
- Ryan Shazier walks across the stage to announce the Steelers’ first-round draft pick just five months after suffering a spinal injury (2018)
- Joey Porter draws a penalty against the Cincinnati Bengals to help Pittsburgh complete the improbable comeback in the wild card round (2016)
- James Conner’s first game for Pitt following his battle with cancer (2016)
- Antonio Brown’s helmet catch on third-and-19 sets up the Steelers’ playoff win over Baltimore (2011)
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