It's no secret, the Pittsburgh Penguins were well on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals when the 2011 year began. On January 31st, 2010, the Penguins were tied with the Detroit Red Wings (53) in points to lead the NHL. The upgraded defense was tied for second in the league in goals allowed, despite a rocky start from Marc Andre Fleury, while also scoring 126 goals. In the center of everything, Sidney Crosby was leading the charge, on pace for 160+ point season with 60+ goals. Many had called Sidney Crosby's performance an assault on the league.

The Winter Classic changed everything. Crumpled into a ball on the ice, Sidney Crosby slowly pick himself up and walked into the locker room while thousands of fans watched and worried. The award winning HBO miniseries, 24/7 showed Crosby in the locker room, responsive but starry eyed and looking for answers as to what happened. Two days later, Crosby's head was rammed into the glass by 6'6 220 pound defenseman, Victor Hedman. The hit was the final blow to Crosby's season and possibly his career.

While Crosby tried to recover, the Penguins immediately started dropping like flies. Evgeni Malkin missed 40 games, tearing his ACL and MCL, Chris Kunitz missed 16 games with a lower leg injury, Dustin Jeffery was lost before the playoffs with a torn ACl, Orpik and Martin also missed time. While this was happening, Jordan Staal's season was just starting as he missed half the season with an infected foot and broken hand.

However, through all the injuries, the Penguins still managed to amass 106 points, tying with the Flyers for the division lead. Dan Bylsma went on to win the Jack Adams Trophy for coach of the year while Marc Andre Fleury did his best to push the Penguins through the playoffs. In the end, they fell one game short of reaching the semi finals. The 2010-2011 season was immensely disappointing due to the vast amount of injuries. It left all of hockey asking "what if?"

In their mission to erase the possibility of nineteen consecutive losing seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates are contending for the division but are fading fast. Their lack of offense has been especially frustrating for a starting rotation that has started to come down to earth. While the team is struggling to score runs, they are still contending despite their long list of injuries. Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Alex Presley, Ronny Cedeno, Steve Pearce, Ross Ohlendorf, Evan Meek, Ryan Doumit and Joe Beimel have all missed significant time on the DL. Not only have the Pirates been losers for 18 straight seasons, they've had to deal with bad luck while trying to break their streak of futility. While most of the listed players should be back in a few weeks, the current team is heading into the most important stretch of the season and the players coming back from injury have had slow starts.

Since Pedro Alvarez's returned, he has hit .182 with 13 strikeouts in 38 plate appearances. Meanwhile, Steve Pearce is batting .095 with just two singles over 21 plate appearances. With players returning, the biggest factor will be adjusting to major league pitching and if the Pirates wish to make a playoff run, they must get back to form quickly.

With all of these injuries to Pittsburgh's finest athletes, can we expect the same for the Pittsburgh Steelers? Obviously, as fans, we hope nobody gets injured however, the Steelers play the most physically demanding sport in town. Compound that with the fact that their defense is made up of veteran players who are well into their thirties and we have a perfect storm of injury potential. As of today, Troy Polamalu is just starting to fully heal from his Achilles injury while Emmanuel Sanders is out 2-3 weeks with a broken ankle. Meanwhile, James Harrison continues to have problems with his back which was operated on earlier this summer. As the season moves along, more injuries are expected for the aging defense.

During the 2008-2009 season, when the Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl championship, Bryant McFadden was the only player to not start at least ten games from the first team defense. The starting defense in the Super Bowl was the same starting defense the Steelers had used all year. Last year, the Steelers had a season ending injury to Aaron Smith while Troy Polamalu battled with an Achilles injury. As mentioned before, Polamalu is still on the mend two weeks into training camp.

One thing that will help the Steelers is the minimizing of full contact practices during training camp and the season. Under the new CBA, teams will no longer be allowed to have back to back practices, or two-a-days, in full pads. While many Steelers fans may think it's unusual for the league's most physical defense (so physical there were rules instituted specifically because of them), to enjoy a day without knocking heads, the lack of physicality will keep them more rested for Sunday. Roger Goddell's best friend, James Harrison, was quoted as calling the new practice rules "lovely". If James is happy with the rules, then I am too. After all, if the impact players (Hampton, Woodley, Harrison, Polamalu, Timmons) can stay healthy, the Steelers could be in contention for their seventh ring, a championship that eluded them last year.

Posted in Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Steelers

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