2012, like so many years before it, was full of promise for sports in Pittsburgh. But, by the time the ball will drop in Times Square, many in the ‘Burgh and around the world who cheer for Black & Gold will want to forget most of this year.
It starts and ends with our beloved Steelers. They entered the playoffs as the #5 seed with the expectation of completely dismantling Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. However, a dysfunctional offense and less than stellar defense kept Denver in the game. Even in OT many of us were still pretty confident that the Steelers would come out of Denver with the win. Yet in the end, the team got ‘Tebowed,’ and the Steelers will always have to live with the fact that their playoff hopes were dashed by a quarterback who really isn’t a quarterback in the league and pretty much saw the last successful moment of his career happen on that field in January.
The offseason brought many questions and initially sighs of relief when Bruce Arians retired/was fired. But, when Todd Haley entered the picture, many were scratching their heads and were left wondering what that meant for an offense that already had identity problems and an edict from ‘Upstairs’ that the team needed to bet back to its old running ways. Mike Wallace became a hold out because he wanted more than he was worth and quickly soured many opinions and feelings. The word ‘trade’ didn’t make any of us feel uncomfortable, and some of us were secretly hoping that a team would give him an offer so that he would be out of our hair. The draft brought the hope of relief from an ailing offensive line with the drafting of David DeCastro and Mike Adams.
Enter the Pirates…
The Pirates, whom I must admit I don’t follow much since they continually broke my heart after ’92, decided now was the year to step up their play and actually play like a competitive MLB team. The team worked its way above .500 and stayed there for so many weeks and months. Many in the ‘Burgh started to believe once again. The word ‘playoffs’ started to enter the talk of many radio and tv programs. The fever was on. Even MVP was being tossed out there with the play of Andrew McCutchen – their star outfielder who signed a hefty extension with the team that offseason. However, the Pirates began an epic collapse that not only took them out of playoff contention but also pulled them down to a 20th consecutive losing record season and left McCutchen third in the race for NL MVP. Will 2012 be the last time the Pirates ever have a glimmer of hope? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure many will want to forget the big let down in 2012.
The Steelers started camp, and like with so many seasons, started full of promise even though there were changes and still questions about the structure of the team. I mean, come on, it’s the Steelers. It became an up and down year for the Steelers. They never really found their identity – except that many would say that ‘undisciplined’ was their identity for the season. The offense took a few games to find it’s groove, then lost it when Ben went down with his shoulder/rib injury. The offense, though productive, struggled at critical times in games allowing lesser teams in the league to stick around and beat the Steelers. The divisional race became complicated early on when the Steelers struggled and lost against AFC teams like the Raiders and Titans. Mike Tomlin, at least by me, was placed on the mantle as the reason why this team could not stay consistent and have a killer instinct to finish off teams they should have dominated over.
The season ended (at least in terms of schedule) on Sunday for the Steelers. But in reality, the coffin was closed weeks before. It was a rather sour tasting and close to abysmal year according to the standards of Steeler Nation. Few silver linings were seen in the dark cloud that loomed over the South Side. 2013, instead of another year of hopeful and hungry fans of Steeler Nation, has many slightly worried and unsettled as to what the future holds for their beloved Steelers…. me included.
Oh yeah, and then there’s the NHL. Well there isn’t much to say about it since they haven’t played a single game this year. The NHL is still working out a deal between the league and players. I’m expecting this season to go up in a cloud of snowplowed skates. And, it might just be then end of the NFL as we know it. The NHL has struggled over the last 10 years in popularity and almost sealed its fate when they locked out back in 2004. Locking out again just 8 years later is pretty awful and has left casual hockey fans headed out the door. Was 2011 and the bitter playoff loss to the Philadelphia Cryers the last time we will see the Penguins skate in a brand new arena? The last time we will ever see the greatest hockey player since Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky skate in a Penguin uniform? I’m not a diehard fan of hockey since I live in a town where there is no NHL market, but I do love the Penguins. I will be sad to see Pittsburgh become a two sport pro-sport town… and really then only a Steeler town since the Bucs are always so disappointing.
2012. Ick. It was certainly a tough year in the ‘Burgh. Quick, somebody grab the champagne and some noise makers to help ring in a better year.
Despite this past year, we here at NPC hope that all of you have a very happy and prosperous 2013. Stay safe. Party responsibly tonight and call a cab if you see someone who’s had too much. We’ll see you on the other side of the ball drop.