Just like any other city with a rich sports tradition, Pittsburgh has had many iconic moments that fans have re-lived over the years and will re-live until the end of time. Below, I'd like to rank the 10 greatest moments in Pittsburgh sports history.
No. 10: Mario Lemieux scores five goals, five different ways.
No. 66 accomplished this remarkable feat on December 31st, 1988, at the old Civic Arena against the New Jersey Devils. Mario scored short-handed, on the power-play, at even strength, on a penalty shot, and he capped it off with an empty-net goal. What a magnificent night for Le Magnifique.
No. 9: Maz goes deep in in bottom of the ninth inning to defeat the Yankees in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.
The Pittsburgh Pirates hadn't won a World Series title in 35 years, and there they were on October 13, 1960, on a Thursday afternoon at old Forbes Field trying to beat the big, bad New York Yankees in Game 7. There is no doubt the Pirates were underdogs in the series as New York outscored Pittsburgh, 55-27, in the seven games--including blow-outs of 16-3, 10-0 and 12-0, but fortunately, the Buccos were clutch when they had to be. And that included the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7, with the contest tied at nine. Pittsburgh's legendary second baseman, Bill Mazeroski, led off the inning by sending a 1-0 pitch over the left-field wall to complete the historic upset, as the Pirates won, 10-9. What a day for Maz.
No. 8: Jerome Lane shatters backboard at the Fitzgerald Field House
On January, 25, 1988, at the old home of the Pitt Panthers men's basketball team, forward Jerome Lane shattered the backboard in a victory over Providence. What a great moment for Jerome! Send it in, Jerome!
No. 7: The Tackle
In a divisional playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts on January 15th, 2006, Ben Roethlisberger saved the day when the second year QB tackled Colts cornerback Nick Harper after Harper scooped up a Jerome Bettis fumble in the game's final moments. Had Big Ben not been "Johnny on the Spot," Bettis' legacy in Pittsburgh would have been much different, and more importantly, the Steelers wouldn't have gone on to win their first Super Bowl title in over a quarter of a century.
No. 6: The Harrison Hundred
With the Steelers 10-7 lead over Arizona dangerously close to being snuffed out near the end of the first half of Super Bowl XLIII, Pittsburgh's all-world linebacker, and the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, stepped in front of a Kurt Warner pass and returned it 100 yards for a miraculous touchdown. Pittsburgh would go on to defeat the Cardinals, 27-23, in a finish for the ages.
No. 5: Barry Bonds' home run off Lee Smith to defeat the Cardinals during the 1991 season
It was extra innings on this hot, summer evening. The Pirates were trailing St. Louis in extra innings ,and the city needed a hero to come through in the clutch. Barry Bonds jacked a Lee Smith pitch over the right center field wall to give Pittsburgh the come from behind victory.
No. 4: 28 point underdog Panthers ruin WVU's chance at national title with shocking upset
The Pitt Panthers were 4-7 and a downtrodden college football program. The West Virginia Mountaineers were ranked second in the BCS standings and a victory over their arch rivals in the regular season finale would wrap up a spot in the BCS National Title game........But this is what college rivalries are made of. You can throw out the record books when arch rivals like Pitt and West Virginia come together. Led by running back LeSean "Shady" McCoy as well as a stifling defense, the Panthers controlled most of the game and probably should have won going away. But thanks to a few questionable penalties against Pitt, the game remained close until the end. However, the Panthers held on for the improbable victory.
No. 3: Panthers win four games in four nights to claim second Big East Tournament Title
The Panthers finished the regular season with a modest 10-8 record in the Big East Conference. But while Pitt was almost assured a spot in the NCAA tournament the following week, a low seed was expected. However, the Panthers surprised everyone by winning four games in four nights--including an overtime win against No. 2 seed Louisville in the quarterfinals and a victory over No. 1 seed Georgetown in the finals--to win their second Big East Tournament. And the victory helped move Pitt from the projected low seed I mentioned earlier, to the No. 4 seed in its bracket. Truly an epic moment in Pittsburgh sports history.
No. 2: Troy Polamalu's pick-six seals a trip to Super Bowl XLIII
It was late in the fourth quarter of the 2008 AFC Championship. Despite dominating their foes for most of the night, the Steelers were unable to put the Ravens away and only led, 16-14, late in the fourth quarter. Baltimore, a team that relied on tough defense and a ball control offense under rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, had possession, only needing a field goal for the improbable victory. However, just when it appeared Pittsburgh would suffer a heartbreaking defeat, Troy Polamalu, that long-hair superhero in cleats, intercepted a Flacco pass and returned it 40 yards or the AFC-clinching touchdown. What an epic moment in Pittsburgh sports history.
No. 1: The Immaculate Reception
The Pittsburgh Steelers were NFL doormats for many years, never having won a playoff game in their four decade history. And trailing the Oakland Raiders, 7-6, with 22 seconds left in 1972 divisional playoff game at Three Rivers Stadium, it appears their bad luck would continue. However, on a deflected pass intended for Frenchy Fuqua, future Hall of Fame running back, Franco Harris, rode in on a white stallion and saved the day when he scooped up the pass and galloped the rest of the way for the greatest touchdown in NFL history. The Steelers' dynasty was born that moment. THE epic moment in Pittsburgh sports history.