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|01-02-2010, 11:59 AM||#1|
A Son of Martha
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The '00s bring out the best in Pittsburgh
The '00s bring out the best in Pittsburgh
By ALAN ROBINSON, AP Sports Writer
Published: Saturday, January 2, 2010 2:13 AM EST
PITTSBURGH (AP) — There were games, and then there were games.
(Originally posted Friday, Jan. 1, 2010.)
The Pittsburgh Steelers won 104 during the second-best decade in franchise history. The Pirates lost a remarkable 936 — that's nearly 94 per season — during a forgettable span of futility. Pitt basketball won 250 of them, or about twice as many as the decade before.
The years 2000-09 were some of the best in Pittsburgh sports, as evidenced by the three titles won by the Steelers and Penguins. Every team produced games that will be long remembered — the so-called instant classic that will be dusted off repeatedly for review by future generations of fans.
Here are 10, in a subjective and easy-to-debate order:
1-Steelers 27, Cardinals 23, Super Bowl, Tampa, Feb. 1, 2009. Barely a half-minute to go, and the Steelers were six yards short of completing a 78-yard drive that would secure their record sixth Super Bowl victory. A perfectly placed pass from Ben Roethlisberger to a perfectly positioned Santonio Holmes took care of that in a game that featured two of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history. The other was James Harrison's 100-yard interception return for a touchdown — and it probably seemed like 1,000 yards to him — to end the first half. Games don't get much better, not even Super Bowls.
2-Penguins 2, Red Wings 1, Detroit, June 12, 2009. The Penguins claimed their first Stanley Cup in 16 years in a supposedly impossible-to-win setting: a road Game 7. Not since 1971 had a team accomplished it, much less in Detroit, but the Penguins turned two goals by Max Talbot and an exceptional game by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury into the franchise's third NHL title. At age 21, Sidney Crosby became the youngest captain of a Stanley Cup winner; Evgeni Malkin was the playoffs MVP.
``Everything it took to win, we did it,'' Crosby said.
3-Steelers 21, Colts 18, AFC divisional playoffs, Indianapolis, Jan. 15, 2006. The Colts were big AFC favorites; the Steelers were forced to win their final four games merely to get into the playoffs. But the Colts looked far too rested as Pittsburgh opened a 21-3 lead. With Pittsburgh about to seal the victory by scoring from in close during the final minute, Jerome Bettis fumbled and Nick Harper returned it 42 yards, a possible miracle touchdown halted only by Roethlisberger's shoestring tackle. The Colts could have tied it, but Mike Vanderjagt — the most reliable kicker in NFL history — missed from 46 yards with 21 seconds remaining. Pittsburgh had two more games to play, but the Super Bowl was a formality after this. A fan watching in a Pittsburgh-area bar was so overcome by the Bettis fumble, he had a heart attack.
``It was a unique game,'' Bettis said. ``It ranks up there.''
4-Pitt 13, West Virginia 9, Morgantown, Dec. 1, 2007. The biggest upset in the history of the Backyard Brawl. West Virginia was No. 2 and, as a four-touchdown favorite, would advance to the BCS title game by winning. An elaborate post-game celebration was planned — in part because Pitt had lost seven of nine games and appeared to be no threat. But LeSean McCoy ran for 148 yards, Pitt held the Mountaineers to 183 yards and the Panthers had the win of a lifetime. They went on to win 19 of their next 26.
5-Flyers 2, Penguins 1, 5 overtimes, Eastern Conference semifinals, Pittsburgh, May 4-5, 2000. They could have played all night and almost did in the third-longest game in NHL history. Ron Tugnutt stopped 70 of the Flyers' first 71 shots, but Keith Primeau scored from the right circle on the 72nd. The Penguins, who won the first two games in Philadelphia, never won again in the series. And interim coach Herb Brooks never coached another NHL game after the series ended with Philadelphia winning 4-2. The architect of the 1980 Olympic Miracle on Ice died three years later in a car accident.
6-Steelers 13, Dolphins 3, Miami, Sept. 26, 2004. The Ben Roethlisberger era begins. The night before, the Steelers hunkered down in a hotel that lacked electricity because of an approaching hurricane. The game was delayed from afternoon to night, but it didn't prevent the Steelers' rookie QB from winning his first career start, in monsoon-like rains. The franchise hasn't been the same since.
7-Villanova 78, Pitt 76, NCAA regional final, Boston, March 28, 2009. Not since 1941 had Pitt come this close to a Final Four. The Panthers — No. 1-ranked for the first time in school history earlier in the season — led down the stretch, only to lose on Scottie Reynolds' length-of-the-court drive with less than a second remaining. It might have been the most agonizing defeat for a Pittsburgh sports team since the Pirates' 1992 Game 7 NLCS loss to Atlanta.
8-Cincinnati 45, Pitt 44, Pittsburgh, Dec. 5, 2009. In a year filled with remarkable games, this was one of the best — and for the No. 14 Panthers, one of the worst. They led the No. 5 Bearcats 31-10, only to lose out on a Sugar Bowl invite because of a failed extra-point attempt and Tony Pike's 29-yard TD pass to Armon Binns with 33 seconds remaining. Pitt freshman Dion Lewis ran for 194 yards in one of the most determined efforts in school history.
``It was a tough, heartbreaking loss, to say the least,'' coach Dave Wannstedt said.
9-Pirates 9, Cubs 5, Game 1; Pirates 5, Cubs 4, Game 2, Pittsburgh, May 28, 2004. Pirates utilityman Rob Mackowiak celebrated Father's Day several weeks ahead of everyone else. On the day his son was born, the sleep-deprived Mackowiak won the opener with a grand slam, then hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning of the second game. The Pirates didn't have many magical moments during the decade, but two came on the same night.
10-Duquesne 72, No. 9 Xavier 68, Pittsburgh, Feb. 7, 2009. No team overcame more in the decade than Duquesne basketball. The Dukes were 3-24 in 2005-06, then had five players shot on campus in Sept. 2006. But coach Ron Everhart's steady rebuilding effort paid off with a 21-win season in 2008-09 highlighted by the Dukes' first win in 35 years over a team ranked as high as No. 9.
``Words can't describe it,'' the Dukes' Bill Clark said.
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