Twas the night before Christmas and all through the city, sports had a down year and people are feeling some pity. Pittsburgh sports had a down year all around and even when it looked like there was promise, everything ended up being a giant lump of coal.
It was a year where the Pittsburgh Pirates may have a higher winning percentage than the Pittsburgh Steelers, a year where the NHL season ended in disappointment and may not even start up another season. It was a season where the Zoltan Z became the team’s rally cry, a season where Pitt basketball ended in a win and Pitt football’s season opened with a puzzling loss.
Pittsburgh is the city where a college football coach stays for a year and the fans rejoice, your football team loses a game and everybody should be fired and where the baseball team has experienced collapses each of the past two seasons to stretch their losing streak to two decades.
You know how they say if you don’t have anything nice to say, not to say it at all? Well it is hard to hold back with the year this city had in sports.
Starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates, it was a season once again of what could have been. It was a similar script to last season where the pitching was brilliant but the offense started out horribly. The power numbers were on the rise and included 30 homers or more from Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez while Garrett Jones had a much more consistent season. The Pirates bullpen led by Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan had a great first half of the season but tapered off and so did the bats come mid-August. A.J. Burnett saw a resurgence and has quickly become a fan favorite. The team won 79 games and showed promise but once again faded down the stretch frustrating fans that are hungry for a winner.
The Pittsburgh Penguins had a solid season but with Sidney Crosby missing a lot of time the pressure was on Evgeni Malkin to perform and he did. Jordan Staal and James Neal also had great years but Staal would be traded to the Carolina Hurricanes at the NHL Draft. The Penguins season ended early at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers in the opening round of the playoffs in six games. It appeared that the best was to come as the team signed Sidney Crosby to a 12 year contract and the NHL Draft created extra excitement for the city, there currently is no NHL season in a time where fans need it most. Things do not appear good and games have been cancelled through January 14. The team is healthy once again and just wants to play hockey but fans have yet to see the team play a game this season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers ended their season early in the playoffs at the hands of Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. The game was a huge disappointment and Tebow since has gone to New York and floundered. The Steelers were decimated with injuries, age and players just not performing up to their past. This season is one that will be .500 at best but fans view the season as a failure and so do the players. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger blames himself for the lack of a playoff berth as it was his interception in each of the past two weeks ended an chance of a Steelers victory. Pittsburgh is mostly a football town and if they lose it’s much like the end of the world. This town bleeds black and gold and now with no hockey season must wait until April for Pirates season.
The Pittsburgh Panthers football team had their struggles winning six times in the Todd Graham era. Fans know how that ended up with Graham bolting to Arizona State and losing in the BBVA Compass Bowl to SMU. After a coaching search, the team opted to go with Paul Chryst, his first head coaching gig after serving as the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin for six years. The players appeared to want to play with him but lost in the first game to Youngstown State and then lost to conference foe Cincinnati. The team finished the season at 6-6 and 3-4 in the Big East earning a third straight bid to the BBVA Compass Bowl where they’ll meet Ole Miss. Perhaps the highlight of the season sadly was Chryst saying he would stay at Pitt after rumors he would become Wisconsin’s next head coach.
The Pitt men’s basketball team at least won something; the CBI. Yes they ended their season with a win but for a team like Pitt it was a season of failure. There was no true leadership and their best player Tray Woodall missed much of the season. Without him, there was no one stepping up and seniors Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson did not lead properly. There was an eight game losing streak that started with a non-conference loss to Wagner. Khem Birch decided to transfer to UNLV and is now excelling coming off their bench. Following an underachieving season, the team has made strides, the leadership is there and so is the winning. Yes there was a weak non-conference schedule, but the team is now ranked 24th and they will face eighth ranked Cincinnati on New Year’s Eve. Now they need to get some wins to salvage an otherwise mediocre at best Pittsburgh sports season.
Their counterparts, the Pitt women’s basketball team had plenty of struggles last season. They were the youngest team in all of women’s basketball last season and this season they are in the top five once again. Perhaps this is why they failed to win a single Big East game this season. The team is off to a better start this season and have the potential to win a few conference games. Head Coach Agnus Berenato is now the winningest coach in the program’s history and is growing this team. Asia Logan and Brianna Kiesel are pieces that will build this team as with no seniors currently on the roster, this team will grow. Still a winning record seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened.
In addition the Pittsburgh Power have struggled in their second season as injuries to quarterbacks, an ineffective offense and kickers just not cutting it and had a 5-13 season. Closer to the end of the season Head Coach Chris Seigfried was fired and Derek Stingley replaced him. His contract continued into this season and the team has made some good signings in free agency as they look to improve. Arena Football is a fast game and the Power hope to improve in their third season.
The year in Pittsburgh sports was a tough one, but the fact that the city survived is a plus I guess. Look on the bright side, it can’t get much worse; or can it?