Pittsburgh fans had a lot to cheer for the month of January. The Steelers are just win away from winning their second Super Bowl since 2009.
Ever wonder what the top stories in the month were?
At Bleacher Report we got you covered. From January 1st till January 31st Bleacher Report Columnist Derek Pivko sorted through all the stories from teams with losing records defeating last year’s Super Bowl Champions, to the stars of tomorrow announcing their intentions of entering the NFL Draft, to the biggest name in the NHL missing the all-star game.
The month of January is only the stepping stone of what looks to be an impacting 2011. With the Super Bowl just a week away, we might not have a Super Bowl Champion until 2013. The NFL Lock Out could be a story to make the year 2011 one to remember.
In a year long series presented by Bleacher Report we will have time lines of all the top stories from January to the final day in December. At the end of the year, we will rank the Top 50 Stories of 2011.
However, we are jumping the gun. With the month of January now complete, we look back at January and remember the month that was.
The Big East Head Coaches can only cringe at the thought of TCU joining the conference in the year 2012. The Big East has lacked prestige in college football as the University of Connecticut won the Big East Conference which is a complete mockery but we can save that for another debate.
TCU became the first school from a non-automatic qualifying conference to play in the Rose Bowl since the (jenius, yes I know that’s a typo) of the BCS.
TCU also finished the season undefeated behind the veteran leadership of senior Quarterback Andy Dalton who threw and ran for a touchdown in the 21-19 victory over Wisconsin. Dalton won this third straight bowl MVP award, while Dalton was overshadowed by other college football Quarterbacks like Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Ryan Mallet being the faces of college football this season. Any team would love a Quarterback like Dalton as TCU will have to find a Quarterback next year to replace Dalton as they look to into the Big East immediately following the 2011-2012 season.
How can a team make the playoffs with a losing record?
Join the NFC West where the division starts with an Arizona Quarterback who takes things serious, real serious. Followed by a San Francisco team whose Head Coach looks like a turtle then there is a team that has had either the first or second pick in the NFL Draft since 2008.
Finally, there is a Head Coach that would leave their prestige college to avoid sanctions by the NCAA to lead a team with a losing record INTO the playoffs.
This is the true story of the NFC West where Pete Carroll lead the Seattle Seahawks into the playoffs after defeating conference rival St. Louis Rams 16-6 in a game that very few watched on Sunday Night Football.
How could a team with a losing record make any impact in the playoffs? With a coach who hasn't coached in the NFL since 1999?
Eric Mangini was once regarded as “ManGenius” after studying under the wing of Bill Belichick. However, fast forward to the present when people think about Mangini they automatically think about Spygate.
On Monday, Mangini’s two year reign as Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns came to a halt. Mangini was 10-22 in two seasons with the Browns.
One of the biggest names in hockey is given the cold shoulder by fans as Alexander Ovechkin is not named a starter for the NHL All-Star Game.
What do the six players have in common?
They were on a Stanley Cup Championship team in the past two seasons.
The starters include four Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury and two Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith.
Ovechkin on the other hand ranked seventh amongst voters, he trailed: Crosby, Toews, Malkin, Steven Stamkos, Patrick Kane and Michael Cammalleri.
Wednesday was a good day for Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven.
On Wednesday, Alomar and Blyeven received the call from Cooperstown. While everyone will remember the outbursts from Alomar ranging from the spitting in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck to being sued by his ex-girlfriend for having unprotected sex with her while Alomar knew he was HIV positive.
But let’s not talk about the negatives and remember that Alomar was one of the best second basemen in the 1990’s. During his 15-year career, Alomar won 10 Gold Gloves which is more than any second basemen in MLB history while finishing his career with a batting average above .300 and only 276 hits shy of 3,000.
Blyleven had to wait 14 years to get the call from Cooperstown compared to Alomar’s two years. However, who really remembers how long it took someone to get into the Hall Of Fame. There is no question that Blyleven deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Blyleven is a two time World Series Champion, two time All-Star and won 287 games over a 22 year career.
Who didn’t get the call? Former big league sluggers Mark McGwire Juan Gonzalez and Rafeal Palmerio didn’t get the call which isn’t a surprise. Will these sluggers even get the call to Cooperstown?
That’s a different argument for another day.
Carolina Panthers fans are in mourning after finding out that Stanford Quarterback is returning to college next season and not getting sacked by opposing linebackers in the NFL.
A guaranteed first pick in the draft decided that a degree from one of the most prestige college institutions in the United States is more important than a hefty paycheck. Can you really blame him?
Luck appears to be the odds on favorite to win the Heisman next year. Meanwhile his coach Jim Harbaugh is currently in Miami interviewing for the Miami Dolphins Head Coach position. However, the Dolphins haven’t fired Tony Sparano.
Now that makes a lot of sense!
A day after Stanford’s Andrew Luck announced he was returning to Stanford, Stanford Head Coach Jim Harbaugh announced he wasn’t.
Harbaugh was named the Head Coach of the San Francisco 49ers a day after he interviewed with the Dolphins. Now that makes sense since the 49ers have a coaching vacancy compared the Dolphins.
Also the chances to win with the 49ers are better compared to coaching the Dolphins. The 49ers are playing in one of the worst conferences we have ever witnessed. Remember a team with a losing record won their division compared to the AFC East which is currently being controlled by the New England Patriots and the New York Jets.
Perhaps the Seattle Seahawks aren’t as bad as their record is, the Seahawks upset defending Super Bowl Champions the New Orleans Saints, 41-36.
Meanwhile the New York Jets knocked off the defending AFC Champions the Indianapolis Colts, 17-16 in what was an exciting first day of the NFL Playoffs.
Nnamdi Asomugha could become the most coveted free agent this off-season (as long as there isn’t a lock out) after the Oakland Raiders voided his contract.
A little after mid-night in the EST but in any other time zone, Auburn defeats Oregon 22-19 to become the BCS National Champions.
The 2010-2011 season was a story book year for the Auburn Crimson Tide, a month ago Cam Newton won the Heisman Award and now fast forward to the present Newton shows why he was the awarded the best player in college football by leading the Crimson Tide to their first National Championship after years of being left out of the Championship Game.
Auburn looks to take a hit after winning the National Championship with players looking to depart from Auburn and head to the NFL.
January 11th wasn’t a good day for San Diego as Trevor Hoffman the all-time leader in saves who will always be remembered for closing games for the Padres retired after 17 seasons in the MLB. Hoffman played the majority of his career with the Padres as well playing for the Florida Marlins and the Milwaukee Brewers.
Brady Hoke, who was introduced as Head Coach of San Diego State back in 2008 turned the Aztecs program this year going 9-4 including a 35-14 victory against Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl. San Diego State hasn’t won nine games 1971. Those nine victories got him the Head Coaching position at the University of Michigan.
Finally, as if San Diego wasn’t hurt enough, the San Diego Chargers Defense Coordinator Ron Rivera to the Carolina Panthers where he will take over as Head Coach after the Panthers fired John Fox back on December 31st.
LSU was fortunate not to lose Les Miles to Michigan and decided to sign Miles to a seven-year contract. However, in this day in age do contracts really mean anything in sports?
Cam Newton one of the most talked about players in college football is done studying for college exams and decided pursue his professional career in the NFL. Newton is expected to be one of the top three quarterbacks selected in the NFL Draft this year.
A day after Cam Newton announcing his plans on going to the NFL Draft. His team-mate Nick Fairley (DE/DT) announces he's going to the NFL as well. Fairley is projected as a top three draft pick that has a strong chance of being the first player taken in the draft. Fairley, a Williamson High School graduate could join JaMarcus Russell as Williamson High School graduates to be taken first overall in the NFL. Let's hope Fairley's career turns out better than Russell's.
The Pittsburgh Steelers advance to the AFC Championship Game with a 31-24 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
The Green Bay Packers advance to the NFC Championship after defeating the Atlanta Falcons 48-21 in the first blowout of the 2011 NFL Playoffs. Aaron Rodgers had 366 passing yards and 4 TDs.
AFC Championship is set: New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, Jets advance to the AFC Championship again with a 28-21 victory over the Patriots.
NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears, the Bears defeated Seattle Seahawks with a 35-24 victory. Next Sunday it should be no surprise what the top story is going to be.
The Oakland Raiders promote offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to head coach. Jackson is the fifth Head Coach of the Raiders since 2004.
Hurricanes Center Eric Staal and Detroit Red Wings Defenseman Nicklas Lidstorm are named team captains for the NHL All-Star Game on January 30th.
Carmelo Anthony will not be traded to the New Jersey Nets. Last week it seemed like a guarantee that Anthony would be traded in the one of the biggest NBA trades in recent history which would have included Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Troy Murphy as well as draft picks. The New Jersey Nets have two first round picks in this years and next years NBA Draft. With Anthony not going to the Nets, rumors have begun to resurface that he could be heading to the New York Knicks. Imagine an Amare Stoudemire and Anthony combination?
If Anthony does get traded before the NBA Trading Deadline or after the season, expect this story to be one of the top stories of the year.
Andruw Jones signs a one-year deal with the New York Yankees. While the Yankees weren't really active in this off-season, the signing of Jones is a nice surprise. While he isn't the same baseball player that we saw in the late 90's, he's still a dependable outfielder which the Yankees need as well as another potential Hall of Famer playing with the Yankees. Who wouldn't want a potential Hall of Famer on their team?
No, this is not an update from my MLB 10 The Show Franchise. Manny Rameriz and Johnny Damon both agree to terms to play for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays which is a surprising move. Rays have never been big in bringing in big name ball players.
There is nothing like home court advantage, you have the crowd cheering you on, no travel, no airports, you just show up to your home gym and play basketball. For the Kansas Jayhawks they were perfect at home for 69 straight games until January 22nd bounced around when the Texas Longhorns upset Kansas, 74-63.
The Green Bay Packers hung on to defeat the Chicago Bears 21-14 to advance to the Super Bowl. The Packers haven’t been to the Super Bowl since 1998 when they lost to the Denver Broncos, 31-24 back when Brett Favre was young. The Bears used three different quarterbacks in the game and came close to knocking off the Bears with third string Quarterback Caleb Hanie.
Meanwhile over in Pittsburgh, the Steelers held on to defeat the New York Jets 24-19. The Jets tried coming back way too late in the game as the Steelers are returning to the Super Bowl since 2009 when they defeated the Arizona Cardinals, 27-23.
A day after the Pittsburgh Steelers advance to the Super Bowl, the other Pittsburgh teams take over the spotlight for other reasons.
Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby announces that he will not be in playing in this year’s All Star game scheduled for January 30th. Crosby is recovering from a concussion.
Meanwhile, #2 University of Pittsburgh loses their undefeated season after being upset by #14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 56-51. Notre Dame hasn't beaten a #2 team on the road since January 5th, 2000 when they defeated defending NCAA Champions University of Connecticut.
Although, that comment could be incorrect as well since the Irish did beat then-No. 2 Texas at the neutral-site BB&T Classic in 2002. The Big East is once again a powerhouse in NCAA Basketball this year. It will be interesting to see just how many teams from the Big East will make it to the Big Dance in March.
On January 4th the starting lineups for the NHL All-Star Team was announced which included four Pittsburgh Penguins.
In the span of 24 hours, two of those starters have pulled out. Sidney Crosby pulled out yesterday and today Evegeni Malkin (15 goals, 22 assists) will also miss the All-Star Game due to a sore knee.
Rafael Nadal loses in the quarterfinals against David Ferrer, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. If Nadal won the Australian Open he would have won four Grand Slam Tournaments in a row. Last year Nadal was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Andy Murray which is who Ferrer will play in the semi-finals.
Jeff Fisher the longest-tenured NFL Head Coach parts with the Tennessee Titans. Fisher was there when they relocated from Houston to Tennessee. In his 17 years with the Oilers/Titans his record was 142-140 including a 5-6 run in the playoffs. Fisher is ranked 20th all-time in victories. Tennessee could be a rebuilding team next year as they don’t have a Quarterbacks as reports speculate that Vince Young could be traded. If Young is traded, expect the Titans to select a Quarterback in the NFL Draft and get ready to rebuild the franchise.
With the first pick in the NHL All-Star Draft Team Staal selects.... Cam Ward?
No surprise, the guy is Staal's team mate and they are playing in North Carolina. However, the biggest surprise is that the biggest name in the all-star game isn't even selected next. He's selected third! Third! The same guy that is picked first in just about everybody's NHL Fantasy Hockey Draft.
I give the NHL a lot of credit by thinking out of the ordinary by running a draft for the All-Star Game. And with the last pick in the draft Team Lidstrom selects: Phil Kessel. Believe me, has done wonders for me in the NHL Fantasy Hockey Team but then again my team is currently in last place.
Kim Clijsters adds another tournament victory to her Hall of Fame career by defeating Li Na, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 to win her first ever Australian Open title.
Novak Djokvoic wins his second Australian Open title after defeating Andy Murray in straight sets 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.
Pittsburgh had a lot of headlines this month.
However, there is always room for Troy Polamalu who won the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award who played in just 14 games. During those 14 games Polamalu was the most important defensive player on the field as he registered 63 tackles and 7 interceptions.