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Top Pittsburgh Sports Stories Of 2014

PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) - It's amazing how fast a year can fly by. The end of a calendar year is a good time to reflect on all that has happened, both good and bad.

In the world of Pittsburgh sports, we watched the Pirates, Penguins and Steelers all qualify for the playoffs for the first time in over two decades. We also watched as the Penguins underwent a seismic organizational shift following another playoff disappointment.

It's been a long year, but here's some of the highs and lows of 2014 in Pittsburgh sports.

First Time In 22 Years All 3 Teams Made Playoffs

It's almost hard to believe, but 2014 marked the first time in over 20 years that all three of our major sports teams made the playoffs.

In fact, 1992 was the last time it happened. The Penguins went on to win their second consecutive Stanley Cup with a 4-0 sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The 1992 Steelers qualified for the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, but would go on to lose 24-3 to the Buffalo Bills on Jan. 9, 1993.

As for the Pirates, we don't want to bring up bad memories, so forgive us.

In case you had forgotten or blocked it from your memory, Sid Bream barely beat the throw of Barry Bonds and the tag of Mike LaValliere to win Game 7 of the NLCS for the Atlanta Braves. The Pirates would not make the playoffs again until 2013.


Canada Sweeps Men's & Women's Hockey Gold In Sochi

Left: Sidney Crosby (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Right: Marie-Philip Poulin scores. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Olympics didn't go nearly as planned for Team USA's hockey teams. The sting of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver was only made worse as Canada once again eliminated the USA in both the men's and women's competitions.

On the women's side of the tournament, USA and Canada were on a gold medal game collision course from the opening puck drop of the tournament.

On Feb. 20, the two teams met in an instant classic.

Alex Carpenter gave Team USA a 2-0 lead 2:01 into the third period. Gold seemed all but assured for the Americans. However, Canada scored twice in the final four minutes to force overtime.

At the 8:10 mark of OT, Marie-Philip Poulin completed the comeback for Canada, who won their fourth consecutive gold medal.

The very next day, the men met in the semifinals. It was a time to dust ourselves off and get revenge for Sidney Crosby's Golden Goal in 2010. It was time to avenge the women's loss 24 hours ago.

It didn't happen.

Dan Bylsma's USA squad got unceremoniously shutout in a game Canada never seemed to be in danger of losing.

Carey Price made 31 saves and Jamie Benn's second period goal proved to be the death blow.

Just 24 hours after losing to Canada, the men met Finland in the bronze medal game. It was a game they were out of before it began. Olli Maatta and former Penguin Jussi Jokinen scored in Finland's 5-0 rout.

Talk about a rough three days of hockey for Team USA.

Lauryn Williams Wins Bobsledding Silver Medal

Bobsleigh - Winter Olympics Day 12
(Photo Credit: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Lauryn Williams, a Rochester native, made history during the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

She is only the second woman in history to win medals in both the Summer and Winter Games . Williams won a gold medal during the 2012 London Games.

Williams came so close to winning a gold medal in the two-man bobsled event, only missing it by .10 seconds. However, coming home with a silver wasn't all bad.

"It was awesome," Williams said. "You got to be proud and look at the bright side at the end."


Bucs Make Playoffs, Lose Wild Card Game To Giants

Wild Card Game - San Francisco Giants v Pittsburgh Pirates
(Photo Credit: Jason Miller/Getty Images)

For the second straight year, there was postseason baseball in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Pirates finished the regular season with an 88-74 record, which was enough to secure a Wild Card berth.

The Pirates hosted the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park on Oct. 1. However, the raucous crowd was silenced early as the Pirates ran into the buzzsaw that was Madison Bumgarner.

Bumgarner pitched a complete game shutout, while striking out 10 and walking only one.

The Giants won the game 8-0, but it's okay. They would go on to win the World Series in a seven-game series against the Kansas City Royals.

Oh, and that Bumgarner guy? He'd go on to win the World Series MVP.

3 Pirates, Hurdle Named To National League All-Star Team

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Pirates sent three players to the MLB All-Star Game this season: Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison and Tony Watson.

Clint Hurdle and Assistant Athletic Trainer Ben Potenziano also served on the National League squad.

McCutchen went 1-3, Harrison was 0-2 and Watson faced one batter in the contest, which was won 5-3 by the American League.

Polanco's Debut

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Gregory Polanco made his long-awaited debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 10 against the Chicago Cubs. He went 1-5 in his first game with a run scored.

He hit his first home run in his fourth game on June 13, on the road against Miami. In that game, he went 5-7 with three runs scored and two RBIs as the Pirates won 8-6.

In 89 games, Polanco had a .235 batting average with seven home runs and 33 RBIs.

A.J. Burnett Returns!

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

On Nov. 14, the Pirates announced they signed pitcher A.J. Burnett to a one-year deal worth $8.5 million. Burnett spent the 2014 season in Philadelphia.

In his two previous seasons with the Pirates, Burnett was 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA in 61 starts.

"There was really nothing to think about, this is the happiest I've been probably in my career playing here," Burnett said. "I honestly felt like in a way, I owed it to the fans, I owed it to my teammates, the organization to come back if they would let me and finish what we started to build here."


Chuck Noll Passes Away

(Photo Credit: Ken Levine /Allsport)

Legendary Steelers coach Chuck Noll passed away at the age of 82 on June 13.

Noll retired after the 1991 season with a record of 209-156-1 after 23 seasons and was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.

Noll is still the only coach in NFL history to win four Super Bowls.

Dan Rooney says he thinks Noll ranks as one of the best coaches in the NFL, saying:

"As for the football end of it, I think he ranks with Halas and Lombardi. There are many other good coaches over the history of the NFL, but I think Chuck Noll ranks up there with those other two guys right at the top. No other coach won four Super Bowls, and the way he did it was with dignity. His players were always his concern, both in treating them well and giving them what they needed to succeed on the field."

Big Ben's Back-To-Back 6 TD Games

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Ben Roethlisberger stepped up when his team needed him the most this season.

The Steelers had a 4-3 record heading into a tough Week 8 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field.

Roethlisberger completed 40 of 49 passes for 522 yards and six touchdowns to lead the Steelers to a 51-34 victory.

There's no way he could repeat that performance against Baltimore the very next week at home right?

Wrong, so very wrong.

While the yardage wasn't the same, Ben completed 25 of 37 passes for 340 yards and another six touchdowns in a 43-23 win.

The 12 combined touchdowns over those two games set a new NFL record.

Steelers Win AFC North With Week 17 Win

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers
(Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

After two consecutive 8-8 seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers qualified for the playoffs this year.

The Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals met at Heinz Field in the final regular season game on Dec. 28, with the AFC North title on the line.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 317 yards and two touchdowns as the Steelers won the game 27-17 and secured the No. 3 seed.

Their opponent in the Wild Card round of the playoffs? The hated Baltimore Ravens.

Le'Veon Bell also suffered a hyperextended knee in the win over the Bengals.

Bell & Blount Marijuana Bust

Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles
(Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

On Aug. 20, Le'Veon Bell and former Steelers running back LeGarrette Blount were pulled over on McKnight Road after an officer smelled marijuana coming from their car.

Police say Bell was driving, Blount was in the front passenger seat and an unidentified female was in the back seat of the vehicle.

Investigators said the officer also found a Ziploc-style bag containing about 20 grams of marijuana on the console.

Bell agreed to enter a first-offender's program that could enable him to get his record expunged if he completes 15 months' probation. An Allegheny County judge must still approve Bell's entry into the program on Feb. 6.

Blount, who now plays for the New England Patriots, will perform 50 hours of community service at a charitable youth organization. If he completes those hours by Feb. 4, the charges will be dropped.


Rangers Erase 3-1 Series Hole, Eliminate Pens In Game 7

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Penguins entered the second round of the playoffs fresh off a tough six-game series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Penguins were the favorites in the series, but dropped Game 1 at home in overtime.

From there, the Pens rallied and ripped off three straight wins to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. They returned home for Game 5 and were soundly beaten 5-1 to send the series back to Broadway.

No big deal right? Winning four in a row against one team is pretty tough to do. They'd surely come out better in Game 6 and wrap it up.

They didn't.

Uh oh.

Game 7 on home ice – a situation they had been in several times under Dan Bylsma and never prevailed.

Streak has to end sometime right? In theory, yes, but not this year.

The Penguins fell 2-1 in Game 7, which triggered a massive roster and front office overhaul prior to the start of the 2014-15 season.

Shero & Bylsma Fired, Rutherford & Johnston Hired

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Shortly after blowing a 3-1 series lead against the New York Rangers, the Penguins fired Ray Shero as the general manager.

However, Dan Bylsma was not fired at the same time, which prompted an awkward couple of weeks while the Penguins searched for a new general manager.

On the same day the Penguins introduced Jim Rutherford as their new general manager, they announced that Bylsma had also been let go.

There were several reports that the Penguins missed out on their first few choices to replace Bylsma. Believe what you want about that situation, but it was a little perplexing to see that process drag out as long as it did.

Eventually, the Penguins hired Mike Johnston away from the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. Johnston had coached in the NHL before, but never as a head coach.

Penguins' Ailments

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

At the end of January, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that star defenseman Kris Letang had suffered a stroke and would miss up to six weeks. Six weeks was the optimistic number, but none would have been surprised had he sat out the rest of the season.

However, he returned to the lineup on April 9 and played in the playoffs.

On Oct. 27, the Penguins announced that sophomore defenseman Olli Maatta would undergo surgery to remove a cancerous thyroid gland tumor. He was expected to miss up to four weeks, but returned to the lineup in just two weeks.

Pascal Dupuis has been diagnosed with two blood clots this year. The second was announced on Nov. 21 and he was expected to miss another six months, which likely ends his season.

In December, the Penguins became the latest team in the NHL to be hit by the mumps outbreak. Several players, including Sidney Crosby, missed time either for testing or actually contracting the virus.

James Neal Traded

(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

The front office underwent a massive overhaul as Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma were relieved of their duties as general manager and head coach respectively.

Enter new general manager Jim Rutherford and head coach Mike Johnston.

The first big roster shakeup for the Penguins came during the NHL Draft.

Rutherford dealt James Neal to the Nashville Predators for Nick Spaling and Patric Hornqvist.

With their first selection, the Penguins drafted Finnish forward Kasperi Kapanen No. 22 overall.

Kapanen nearly made the team out of training camp, but was ultimately returned to his Finnish club.

Pitt Football

Paul Chryst Heads To Wisconsin, Pederson Fired, Narduzzi Hired

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Pitt's athletic department underwent a series of changes in December. Head football coach Paul Chryst left the program to take over the same position with his alma mater at the University of Wisconsin.

As he was being introduced as Wisconsin's head coach, the University of Pittsburgh announced it had relieved Steve Pederson of his duties as athletic director.

Randy Juhl, Vice Chancellor for Research, Conduct and Compliance will serve as Pitt's Acting Athletic Director while Offensive Coordinator Joe Rudolph will serve as interim coach for the Panthers as they prepare for the Armed Forces Bowl on Jan. 2.

On Dec. 26, the Panthers officially introduced Pat Narduzzi as their new head coach during a press conference at the team's South Side facility.

The longtime Michigan State defensive coordinator is their fifth head coach in five years.

"Today is the beginning of a dream come true for me and my family," Narduzzi said. "I hope it's a dream that will last many years to come."

He is a Youngstown, Ohio, native and he said Pittsburgh just feels like a perfect fit for him and that it feels like home.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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