What an eventful month for our beloved Black and Gold warriors. Some of it was really good. Some of it, not so much.
Let's start at the beginning and have a look at everything that went on over the last 28 days.
Feb. 1-5: During the build up to Super Bowl XLV, Mother Nature toyed with the citizens of and visitors to the Dallas area. Unseasonably cold weather battered the north Texas area, covering nearly everything in sight with snow and ice. Several people where injured when ice fell off the roof of the colossal Cowboy's Stadium.
Ben Roethlisberger and several other Steelers were spotted in a piano bar singing Billy Joel tunes the Tuesday before the big game, which revived the issue of charges against Roethlisberger that were eventually dropped early in 2010 for assault. The fact that this was a traditional outing for Ben and his teammates was overlooked, and rumor-mongers like TMZ, who don't normally cover sports, began questioning if going out for some fun would prove troublesome for the embattled quarterback. In other words, TMZ found a new level of ridiculousness that few knew existed.
Feb. 2: Pens goalie Brent Johnson and Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro got into a rare goalie fight during which Johnson flattened DiPietro with a single punch. This incident would not go unavenged.
Feb. 4: Evgeni Malkin suffered a knee injury in a game against the Buffalo Sabres. The injury would haunt the Pens later in the month.
Feb. 6: This was not a good day for the city of Pittsburgh. The Penguins suffered a loss at the Verizon Center to the hated Washington Capitals, 3-0.
Later that evening, the Steelers lost Super Bowl XLV to the Green Bay Packers, 31-25. This marked only the second time in their long and storied history that the Steelers lost the Super Bowl. The turning points of the game were Roethlisberger's interception returned for a touchdown in the first quarter, and Rashard Mendenhall's fumble when the Steelers were driving for a go-ahead score in the fourth.
Feb. 9: Matt Cooke was suspended for four games for a charge he delivered on Columbus Blue Jackets' defenseman Fedor Tyutin. It is also announced this day that Malkin would undergo season ending knee surgery stemming from the injury he sustained on the fourth. It is speculated that perhaps the injury report should be changed to the uninjured report since it would be easier to list the players who are not injured than those who are.
Also on this day, the Pirates and Ross Ohlendorf went to salary arbitration, and Ohlendorf was awarded $2.025 million in salary for the 2011 season. In 2010, the right-handed starter went 1-11 with a 4.07 ERA in 21 starts for the Bucs. He made $439,000 last year. He was requesting a raise and the Pirates countered with $1.4 million, an offer that was rejected.
Two thoughts on this: One, that is a hell of a raise for a guy who went 1-11; and two, let's hope this is not a sign of things to come in the upcoming season for the Bucs. We need them to snap a streak of 18 seasons under .500, not to continue their losing ways.
Feb. 10: The Penguins and the New York Islanders combine for 65 penalties totaling 346 minutes and 10 ejections in a 9-3 rout of the Pens. The game made Pittsburgh demigod and hockey Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux ponder whether he wanted to remain the owner of the Penguins. Quoth the savior of Pittsburgh hockey, "If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to re-think whether I want to be a part of it.”
Feb. 11: Chuck Tanner, the beloved former manager of the Pirates, who managed the team in the 1979 Championship, died at the the age of 82. Tanner was known as one of the nicest guys in baseball and one of the most optimistic.
Feb. 21: Steelers linebacker James "Silverback" Harrison has surgery on his back. The surgery was deemed a success and Harrison is not expected to miss any of the 2011 season, assuming there is one.
Feb. 23: Lamarr Woodley, the outstanding linebacker of the Steelers accepts his franchise tender from the club. Woodley has set a franchise record with 39 sack in his first four seasons. That's saying a lot when you consider who has played linebacker for the Steelers over the years. Names like Lambert, Ham, Gildon, Greene and Porter immediately come to mind. They were pretty good, too.
Feb. 24: In an effort to replace the scoring they lost with Crosby, Malkin, and the small army of others on the injury report, the Penguins acquire Alexi Kovalev from the Ottawa Senators for a conditional seventh round pick. This is the second tour of duty with the Pens for Kovalev, who played some of his best hockey with the club between 1998-2003.
Also on this day, Brett Keisel, defensive end for the Steelers, shaved his beard for charity. It was reported that several elves and a troll were looking for new homes in the aftermath of the deforestation project.
Feb. 25: The Steelers announced that Pro Bowl rookie center Markice Pouncey will not need surgery for the injury he sustained in the AFC Championship game against the New York Jets.
Also on this day, the Pirates punished the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, 21-1 in a preseason tune up. Not bad, Bucs. Can you do that against major league hitting and pitching, though. We will find out soon.
Feb. 26: The Penguins played their last game of the month, a 6-5 shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. The signing of Kovalev two days prior paid dividend in this game as he scored in regulation, and netted the game-winning shot in the shootout.
The Penguins finished the month 6-6 with two OT loses, which gave them 14 points. They remain in fourth place in the conference with 80 points.
Sidney Crosby did not play in a single game during the month for the Penguins. The concussion he sustained in January has had lingering effects. His return is still very uncertain. It is not an overstatement to say the Pens need him back, and quickly.
Feb. 27: In their opening game of the preseason, the Pirates downed the Tampa Bay Rays, 10-3. The Bucs got three hits a piece from Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones.
Feb. 28: In split squad action, the Bucs fall to the new-look Orioles, 6-4, but beat the Rays 6-5. It looks like the Pirates are going to be able to score some runs this year, and might be able to win a few of the close games they managed to lose last year. Garrett Atkins hit a three-run jack during a five run fourth inning in the win over the Rays.
For the first time in a long time, there is a glimmer of hope amongst the Bucs faithful. We aren't asking for a World Series appearance (we would take it, of course, if it happened). We just want some time out of the cellar. A winning season for new manager Clint Hurdle and his crew would be just fine by me.
So, that was the month that was for the major pro teams in the little city on the Three Rivers. Let's hope that the Penguins and Pirates can pull through for us in the coming months, and that NFL labor peace will reign.
To all my fellow Pittsburghers, and members of the mighty nation of fans who love all of our teams, keep pulling for the Mighty Black and Gold!