Best of the Decade
Updated: Jul 25
Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher, Johnny Cueto (47), stands on the mound before throwing a pitch in the 2013 NL Wild Card Game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
As being a sports fan, there have been a decent amount of sporting events that I have been to. I have also watched a lot of sporting events on my television. As the year 2019 is about to conclude, I am going to recall some of my favorite memories in Pittsburgh Sports History, during this decade, whether it would be in professional sports, college sports, or in high school sports. I am not listing in a specific order of which Pittsburgh Sporting event was my favorite.
1. Winter Classic Game 2011: The Washington Capitals played the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 1st, 2011 at Heinz Field, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The fact that this was the first NHL game, that was played outdoors in Pittsburgh was pretty cool. Even though the Capitals won by a score of 3-1, the game was still fun to watch. However, there was a bad memory in this game as former Capitals player, David Steckel hit Sidney Crosby in the head which led to Crosby missing the rest of the 2010-11 NHL season due to a concussion. Evgeni Malkin was the Penguin that scored in this game.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 NL Wild Card Win: The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Cincinnati Reds in the 2013 NL Wild Card Game on October 1, 2013. The Pirates last postseason win was on Tuesday, October 13, 1992, when they defeated the Atlanta Braves in Game 6 of the NLCS by a score of 13-4. The Pirates won the Wild Card game against the Reds by a score of 6-2. Some would say that one of the greatest moments in PNC Park history was when the crowd chanted "Cueto, Cueto, Cueto" and Johnny Cueto, former Cincinnati Reds pitcher, dropped the baseball before he threw a pitch. Right after Cueto dropped the ball, he threw a pitch, and former Pittsburgh Pirates catcher, Russell Martin, hit a home run to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead. The crowd went absolutely nuts.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins Back-To-Back Years in Winning The Stanley Cup: The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup in back-to-back years. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2016 in Game 6 of the Finals against the San Jose Sharks and they won the Stanley Cup in 2017 in Game 6 of the Finals against the Nashville Predators. Both of these games were road games for the Penguins. I was a freshman and sophomore in high school when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in back-to-back years. As a Penguins fan, I was so happy when they won it in consecutive years as there is nothing you could have said to me after those two championship wins that would have made me upset because I was in such a great mood.
4. Antonio Brown's Helmet Catch In The Playoffs: Even though Antonio Brown is not playing on the Steelers, I still think that he is one of the best receivers that has ever played in the game of football. His ability to position his body to make catches is unbelievable. Even though, he might have some of his own problems, the man's football work ethic is pretty awesome. In a 2011 AFC Divisional playoff game, that was played January 15, 2011, against the Baltimore Ravens, Antonio Brown made a nice catch as he caught the football by placing the football against the helmet. This play happened in right before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter of the game. The Steelers would win that game by a score of 31-24 and move onto the AFC Championship Game. After Brown made that catch, I thought to myself if he could be the next great receiver for the Steelers. I think he became great after that catch, but that's just an opinion.
5. Brandon Sutter's Game: On March 12, 2013, the Pittsburgh Penguins were trailing by a score of 2-0 to the Boston Bruins with 7 minutes left to go in the third period. Chris Kunitz scored a goal for the Penguins with 6:18 left to go in the game. The score was 2-1 Boston. Then, with 5:27 left to go in the game, Brandon Sutter scored for the Penguins to tie the game at 2. Wait, it gets better. After scoring the game-tying goal, Sutter scored another goal with 2:03 remaining in the game to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead which resulted in a win. Man, I remember watching this game thinking that Boston just simply had the Penguins beat. But the adversity that the Penguins overcame to win this game was quite spectacular. In the month of March in 2013, the Penguins had a record of 15-0. Brandon Sutter's game-tying goal and game winning goals in this game were spectacular as that was one NHL game he will never forget in his life.
6. Pitt Football Defeating DeShaun Watson: On November 12, 2016, the Pittsburgh Panthers football team defeated the number two ranked college football team in the country in the Clemson Tigers by a score of 43-42. DeShaun Watson was the star quarterback for the Tigers at the time. Now, you probably all know that he is the quarterback for the Houston Texans. Going into this game, the Tigers had an overall record of 9-0. The Panthers outscored the Tigers 9-0 in the fourth quarter to win the game. At the time, Chris Blewitt was the field goal kicker for the Panthers, and he made a 48 yard field goal with 0:06 remaining in the fourth quarter to win the game. That is a moment that Pitt fans and Blewitt will never forget. However, DeShaun Watson might look at that game and not even care since the Tigers became National Champions in that football season as they defeated Alabama by a score of 35-31 in the CFP National Championship Game on January 9, 2017. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, Deon Cain was on that Clemson team while Steelers running back, James Conner, was on that Pitt football team.
7. Marc-Andre Fleury's Return to Pittsburgh: Marc-Andre Fleury returned to Pittsburgh on February 6, 2018, as a goalie for the Vegas Golden Knights. Fleury was selected in the 2017 Expansion Draft by the Golden Knights. This was Fleury's first ever game playing against the Penguins in Pittsburgh. The reason why this moment is stuck in my head is because of the tribute video that the Penguins made for him. I am not known as a person that can cry easily; but that video really almost made me cry. The Penguins won the game by a score of 5-4 as Fleury suffered the loss for Golden Knights. Fleury stopped 33 saves on 38 shots for the Golden Knights. Matt Murray stopped 21 shots on 25 attempts and earned the win for the Penguins. However, Vegas would make the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals, but lose to the Washington Capitals in the series by a score of 4 games to 1.
8. Pitt Football Defeating Saquon Barkley: Pitt defeated Penn State by a score of 42-39 at Heinz Field on September 10, 2016. As I have lived my life, I have seen multiple Pitt fans go up to Penn State fans and just shout "42-39" because of how proud Pitt fans were about that win. Before that game, the last time those two teams played against each other in football was on September 16, 2000 when Pitt defeated Penn State 12-0 at Three Rivers Stadium. In the 2016 game, former Penn State running back, Saquon Barkley rushed for four touchdowns. Barkley is now the starting running back for the New York Giants. Former Pitt quarterback, Nathan Peterman, threw for three touchdowns in that game while James Conner rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown. Pitt fans said after this game, "Hail To Pitt".
9. Pitt Football Defeating Number Two Miami: Pitt's football team was really bad in the 2017 season, as they had an overall record of 5-7. One of the most memorable games that Pitt had that season was when they defeated the number two ranked Miami Hurricanes by a score of 24-14 on November 24, 2017. Going into this game, the Hurricanes had an overall record of 10-0. I think that because the Hurricanes lost this game, that they were not qualified for the National College Football Playoffs. Anyway, this was the last game for the Panthers in the season and they ended it on a high note. This was the first game that Pitt quarterback, Kenny Pickett, ever won in his collegiate career as he was a freshman when he defeated Miami. After that loss for Miami, they lost to Clemson in the ACC Championship game and they lost to Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl. So, Miami started the season 10-0 and they lost the next three games to end their season.
10. Andrew Recchia Has Ice In His Veins: Andrew Recchia's game winning 3-point basket against Moon Area on Friday, March 1st, 2019 was perhaps one of the clutchest plays I have ever seen a WPIAL high school athlete make. With a WPIAL championship on the line, Recchia's 3-point basket, that he made with 2.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter, helped Mars repeat as WPIAL 5A Boys Basketball champions. To me, that shot was considered one of the most historic moments that ever happened in WPIAL history. If he would have missed that shot, there would have been no way that he would have slept that night. He might have not have even showed up to school the next week if he missed that shot. Recchia scored a total of 23 points in the game as he is now a freshman college basketball player at Shippensburg University. After that game-winning championship shot, Andrew Recchia should have his number retired at Mars Area High School.
11. The Steelers Drafting James Conner: James Conner was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Conner suffered from Hodgkin's Lymphoma in the beginning of the 2015 NCAA football season and he was cured from it in the offseason. In 2016, Conner played out of his mind in his junior year at Pitt as he rushed for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns. The fact that he had gone through cancer and was able to come back and play at the high level that he played was extraordinary. Almost every single person in the city of Pittsburgh was happy when they heard that the Steelers drafted Conner, as he is considered a Pittsburgh idol and role model. Conner spends a good bit of time with people who are fighting with cancer because of the fact that he knows what current cancer patients are going through. You already know that Conner is making his way as an elite NFL running back as he is the starting running back for the Steelers and has made big time plays so far in his first three years in the NFL.
12. Robert Morris Beating Kentucky: Kentucky's Men's basketball team was not that good in the 2012-13 NCAA basketball season. They did not make the NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball tournament; but they did make the National Invitation Tournament that year. Their first-round opponent was Robert Morris University and the game was played at Charles L. Sewall Center, located in Moon Township, PA, on March 19, 2013. The Colonials were able to upset the Wildcats by a score of 59-57. Former Kentucky basketball player, Kyle Wiltjer, missed a 3-point shot. at the buzzer, that would have given the Wildcats a 60-59 win. That is how the Colonials won the game and Robert Morris was so hyped about the win that they cancelled classes the next day so the university could soak in the historic moment. This was perhaps one of the best wins in Robert Morris Men's basketball history. Current Oklahoma City Thunder basketball player, Nerlens Noel, and current Golden State Warrior basketball player, Willie Cauley-Stein, were on that Kentucky team that lost to Robert Morris.
13. Antonio Brown's Immaculate Extension: Antonio Brown scored the game winning touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens on Christmas Day in 2016 at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game by a score of 31-27. What is crazy about Brown's touchdown is that when he made the catch at the 1-yard line, it looked like the three Ravens players that were on him were going to stop him short of the endzone. However, Brown was able to extend the football past the goal line to score the touchdown as Brown's body did not go into the endzone. The Steelers won the AFC North Title after winning this game as that play showed once again how clutch Antonio Brown can be as a football player.
14. Andrew McCutchen's Walk Off Home Run Against The St. Louis Cardinals: Andrew McCutchen is my favorite Pittsburgh Pirate of all-time. The Pirates played the Cardinals on Saturday, July 11, 2015 as the game extended into Sunday, July 12, 2015 because the game went into extra innings. Well, the Cardinals had a 3-0 lead in this game and the Pirates scored 1 run in the bottom of the fifth inning and 2 runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to extend the game into extra innings. The Cardinals had a 4-3 lead in the top of the tenth inning and the Pirates tied the game in the bottom of the tenth inning to extend extra innings. The Cardinals would then score a run in the top of the fourteenth inning and most of the Pirates fans were ready to go home after that run. However, in the bottom of the fourteenth inning, my hero, Andrew McCutchen, hit a 2-run home run to give the Pirates a 6-5 win. I watched this whole game as the Pirates were doing really well at the time. I was really happy after the Pirates won this game as McCutchen kept proving to the MLB why he was one of the most underrated players in the MLB, at the time.
15. Andrew McCutchen's Return To PNC Park: Andrew McCutchen made his return to PNC Park on Friday, May 11, 2018 as a member of the San Francisco Giants. Before the start of the 2018 MLB season, McCutchen was traded to the San Francisco Giants. The Pirates got some draft picks, some money, Kyle Crick, and Bryan Reynolds in that trade. Anyway, in Cutch's return, the whole crowd at PNC Park gave him a very nice standing ovation. The whole crowd, that were Pirates fans, could agree that the Pirates management was God awful as they gave away, not only one of the team's best players, but one of the most beloved people in the city of Pittsburgh. Don't worry, Marc-Andre Fleury is up on that list to. In the game, McCutchen had one hit in five batting attempts for the Giants. The Pirates would win the game by a score of 11-2. Even though they had won the game, the fans were still sad at the fact that McCutchen was wearing a different MLB uniform.
16. Juju's Hit on Vontaze Burfict: When Burfict was on the Bengals, he was known as the enemy to the Steelers as he would attempt to hurt multiple Steelers during games. One of Burfict's most memorable hits to Steelers fans was when he made helmet to helmet contact on Antonio Brown in the 2016 AFC Wild Card Game, played at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, on January 9, 2016. Burfict's hit on Brown cost the Bengals the game and their season. Brown did not play in the next playoff game for the Steelers as they would lose to the Super Bowl 50 champions, Denver Broncos, by a score of 23-16 in the AFC Divisional Round. No Steeler really stood up to Vontaze Burfict until Juju Smith-Schuster did on Monday December 4, 2017. In the fourth of quarter of a road game against the Bengals, former Steelers running back, Le'Veon Bell, rushed with the football on a play. Just as Burfict was about to attempt to hit Bell, Juju Smith-Schuster came out of nowhere to hit Burfict on the ground and it seemed that Juju taunted Burfict after the hit. That hit got Juju suspended the next game, and Burfict was on the ground for multiple minutes after he got hit. This hit by Juju showed that he is protecting the Steelers and "Steelers Nation" as he was considered a hero to me and other Steelers fans after that play. The Steelers would win that game by a score of 23-20 as they trailed by a score of 20-10 entering the fourth quarter. Juju Smith-Schuster is becoming one of the most idolized athletes in Pittsburgh history.
17. The Opening of Consol Energy Center: The Pittsburgh Penguins played their first regular season NHL game at their new home arena, Consol Energy Center, on October 7, 2010. Consol Energy Center was switched to PPG Paints Arena before the start of the 2016-17 NHL season. Anyway, the Penguins lost to the Flyers by a score of 3-2 in the debut of their new arena. Tyler Kennedy was the first Penguin to score in Consol Energy Center as he scored the first goal for the Penguins in that game. Former Penguins defenceman, Alex Goligoski scored in that game. To be even more specific, former Flyer, Daniel Briere, was the first NHL player to score a regular season or postseason goal in Consol Energy Center. That's pretty good history. Anyway, for those people that were at the opening day of the new arena, that's an experience that they would never forget.
18. Brent Johnson's Fight: Former Penguins goalie, Brent Johnson, fought former Islanders goalie, Rick DiPietro on February 2, 2011. The Penguins were winning 3-0 late in the third period, they would win the game 3-0 at the end, and right before the game ended DiPietro went out to hit former Penguin, Matt Cooke, as Cooke was skating in front of him in the crease during action. A big fight started to happen in the right corner of DiPietro's net. Then, Johnson went out of his net, skated all the way to DiPietro and knocked him out. Yes, there was only one punch thrown in that fight. It was legendary as the whole NHL knew how tough Brent Johnson was.
19. 2018 NCAA Men's Division 1 Basketball March Madness Tournament Games Held in Pittsburgh: In March 2018, PPG Paints Arena, was one of the hosting venues of the 2018 NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball Tournament. In the Round of 64 these games were played at PPG Paints Arena on March 15, 2018, #16 Radford(87)/ #1Villanova(61), #8 Virginia Tech(83)/ #9 Alabama(86), #10 Oklahoma(78)/ #7 Rhode Island(83), and #15 Iona(69)/ #2 Duke(87). In the Round of 32, these games were played at PPG Paints Arena, #9 Alabama(58)/ #1 Villanova(81), and #7 Rhode Island(62)/ #2 Duke(87). These games helped make PPG Paints and the city of Pittsburgh make money as local restaurants, and bars had a lot of customers go into their businesses to eat and drink. Villanova became the National Champions in the tournament, and they played their first two rounds of the tournament in Pittsburgh. Here is a list of some of the college players from these eight schools, that played at PPG Paints Arena in the NCAA tournament in 2018, that are now in the NBA.
Jalen Brunson (G)- Dallas Mavericks
Eric Paschall (F)- Golden State Warriors
Donte DiVincenzo (G)- Milwaukee Bucks
Omari Spellman (F)- Golden State Warriors
Mikal Bridges (G/F)- Phoenix Suns
Nickeil Alexander-Walker (G)- New Orleans Pelicans
Justin Robinson (G)- Washington Wizards
*Note: Devin Wilson, a 2013 graduate for Montour High School, played on this team as a redshirt senior.
Collin Sexton (G)- Cleveland Cavaliers
Trae Young (G)- Atlanta Hawks
Grayson Allen (G)- Memphis Grizzlies
Gary Trent Jr. (G)- Portland Trail Blazers
Wendell Carter Jr. (F)- Chicago Bulls
Marvin Bagley III (F)- Sacramento Kings
20. Back-To-Back 6 Touchdown Games: In the 2014 NFL Regular Season, Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, threw 6 touchdowns in back-to-back games. Ben threw 6 touchdowns in Week 8 against the Indianapolis Colts on October 26, 2014, and he threw 6 touchdowns in Week 9 against the Baltimore Ravens on November 2, 2014. Both of those games were wins for the Steelers. Roethlisberger would end the 2014 NFL Regular season, tied with the most passing yards in the NFL with 4,952. Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, also threw for 4,952 yards in the 2014 NFL Regular Season.
Now, there are other memorable Pittsburgh sporting events that have happened in this decade, that I maybe did not mention or forgot to mention. But all I can tell you is that I will easily remember all these Pittsburgh sporting moments that have happened in this decade for the rest of my life.
Brentaro Yamane: email@example.com and Twitter @BYHilton13