David Bednar embodies what it means to be a Pittsburgh athlete. We always use words like “blue-collar”, “tough” and “gritty” when we describe the players that don the black gold for the Pirates, Penguins and Steelers. But Bednar is a rare example of someone who is actually from the city and is now playing for one of our professional sports teams. There’s a handful of sports stars to have been born in the Pittsburgh area, so with that in mind, let’s break down where Bednar ranks amongst such prestigious company.
Bednar is certainly no slouch, as he is consistently one of the top closers in all of baseball. In 188 games, Bednar is 9-10 with an ERA of 2.66 and 243 strikeouts. Not too bad for a guy who was drafted in the 35th round. Bednar is a two-time All-Star for the Pirates and was a member of 2023’s Team USA at the World Baseball Classic.
As far as other baseball players from the ‘Burgh go, there are several notable ones. Josh Gibson played for the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the Negro Leagues. Hall of Fame member Honus Wagner played almost his entire career with the Pirates and was one of the first five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I’d be remised if I didn’t include a hometown favorite of my grandmother, Neil Walker, as he has transitioned from a career with the Buccos to one in the booth covering Pittsburgh baseball.
Western PA really shines for football players and coaches, with plenty making the NFL ranks. Aaron Donald and Cameron Heyward have been two of the top defensive players for nearly a decade now with seemingly no end in sight to their dominance. Ty Law won some hardware as a member of the New England Patriots, as did Tony Dorsett with the Dallas Cowboys, and fellow running back Curtis Martin narrowly missing out on one with the Patriots and Jets.
Tight end Mike Ditka too is from Pittsburgh where he attended the University of Pittsburgh before going on to be one of the best pass catchers in the NFL as a member of the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, and Cowboys. Ditka would also go on to win a Super Bowl as the head coach of the ‘85 Chicago Bears, orchestrating one of the greatest defenses of all time. In Yinzer’s eyes though, Ditka couldn't hold a candle to coach Bill Cowher as he exemplified what it meant to be a Pittsburgher on the national scale. Cowher went on to win Super Bowl 40 coaching his home town Steelers.
Darrell Revis grew up in Aliquippa and went to the University of Pittsburgh on his way to becoming a seven time Pro Bowl and four-time NFL All-Pro cornerback playing for the Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.
This is still the greatest Bill Cowher moment ever. He shoves a picture proving the Steelers didn’t have 12 men on the field into the official’s pocket. This moment right here solidified Cowher as a coaching legend. pic.twitter.com/qJcF3KAKUG— Daniel Valente (@StatsGuyDaniel) January 12, 2020
I can’t leave out the cradle of quarterbacks from this discussion as Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Joe Namath, Jim Kelly, Johnny Unitas, and George Blanda all hail from within a 50-mile radius of the city. Also shout out to Charlie Batch, as my dad has drilled into my head him being the greatest backup quarterback of all time still resides in the city making it a better place for the youth in his community of Homestead.
One of the biggest sports stars in olympic and professional wrestling also hails from nearby Mt. Lebanon, as Kurt Angle went on to have a storied collegian, olympic, and WWE career. Angle would go on to win a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the 1996 Summer Olympics despite competing with a broken neck.
In boxing, Billy Conn, Harry Greb and Paul Spadafora all won world titles while Eddie Chambers challenged for one on several occassions. Greb is regularly listed as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters of all-time.
There are several more notable athletes that I’m omitting, but it should be clear to see that Pittsburgh truly is one of if not the greatest sports city in the world. Biased yet, but you cannot argue with results and hardware. Bednar is certainly on his way to joining the ranks of the greatest athletes in the cities history.
Tell us in the comments where you have Bednar on the all-time Pittsburgh list!