Thanksgiving is upon us, which means it’s time for America to quash its simmering rage about everything in life to pretend to be grateful for exactly 24 hours. But here in Pittsburgh? Sports fans actually have a lot of things to be thankful for. And here they are.
10. Pitt sports
Specifically, the football team and the men’s basketball program. Why be thankful for them? Because things really can’t get worse than they are right now. Pitt football isn’t going to make a bowl game — a pretty difficult feat to achieve when 975 teams make bowls every year — and the 1-4 basketball team lost this week to Penn State by 31 points. Thirty-one points. To Penn State, a basketball program whose entire purpose is to maybe occasionally produce a tight end for the football team. So it’s all up from here! I think. #blessed
9. PNC Park
Brennan Kraje, left, of Lynchburg, Va., and Julio Gonzalez, right, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, pose near PNC Park before the 2017 home opener.Cameron Hart / For The Incline
PNC Park is now 17 years old – meaning that if it was built in Atlanta, it would be old enough to tear down – yet it is still regarded as one of the best ballparks in America. Unfortunately, one of the best ballparks in America has only housed a winning team in four of its 17 years. The stadium alone still gets people in the seats … which one can argue is a negative because ownership has zero incentive to put a good product on the field if people still come to games. So while I’m thankful Pittsburgh has PNC Park, I’d be more thankful if Pittsburgh had some good baseball players.
Is it small and petty to remind fans from other cities that the Steelers have the most Super Bowl titles in history and that the Penguins have back-to-back Stanley Cups? Sure. But is it enjoyable nonetheless? 100 percent.
7. A franchise QB
Ben Roethlisberger is on the downside of his career. That’s true. But his downside is still better than the vast majority of every other NFL starting quarterback’s upside. Think about some of the names that played quarterback for the Steelers in the 21 seasons between Terry Bradshaw and Roethlisberger. Cliff Stoudt. Mark Malone. Bubby Brister. Neil O’Donnell. Mike Tomczak. Those days could be back sooner than we’d like to think.
Ohmygod. I just remembered Kent friggin’ Graham. Please don’t retire, Mr. Ben.
You may have heard that Pitt doesn’t have an on-campus stadium. But in PNC Park, Heinz Field and PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh has three venues that are easy to get to, keeping the city lit (hashtag Millennial reference for the pageviews) on game days. Go to a game in Philadelphia or take a long journey from Boston to hate watch the Patriots, and you’ll quickly appreciate what Pittsburgh has.
5. Steelers rookies
#TeamJuJuEvan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Are T.J. Watt, JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner good at football? Sure. Watt has a shot at double-digit sacks in his first season, Smith-Schuster got to 500 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns before the age of 21, and James Conner is averaging 4.7 yards per carry. But the best part is that they’re all easy to root for off the field so far, as well. The new generation of Steelers are not … turkeys. (Get it? It’s a Thanksgiving reference.)
4. Andrew McCutchen
Andrew McCutchen had a big bounce-back season in 2017 and is under contract for one more year. We’re lucky to get to see him play one more season* in a Pirates jersey.
(*Or the part of the season the Pirates keep him before trading him by the deadline.)
3. Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown
The Steelers have the best running back and the best receiver in all of football. Be thankful for that. You can go back to being angry about Todd Haley not utilizing them enough tomorrow.
2. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin
McCutchen, Bell, Brown, Crosby, Malkin. It should honestly be against the law to complain about sports within the boundaries of the City of Pittsburgh.
Have your chicken shoved in the butt of a duck shoved in the butt of a turkey. I say the best bird is a Penguin, the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions. Every team in Pittsburgh can not win a game for five years and Pittsburgh fans would still have nothing to complain about.