Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin. Ben Roethlisberger. Andrew McCutchen.
At times during the last decade, each of these men has been considered to be “Yinzer” royalty for their feats in their respective sports. We are fast approaching the season when each major sports team in Pittsburgh will be in the news, so now is a good time to figure out who currently reigns supreme in the City of Champions.
There are many sports figures beyond the obvious that could be in the conversation for king. Antonio Brown, Kris Letang, Gregory Polanco, even Mike Sullivan are prestigious names that deserve consideration. Marc-Andre Fleury, Gerrit Cole, and Le’Veon Bell could have gained the title in the past, but squandered their opportunity, at least for now. So let’s focus on the most obvious; the faces of their respective franchises.
Let’s talk about Crosby first (this is a hockey website after all). It seems like a lifetime ago that a ping-pong ball brought number 87 to Pittsburgh, and likely saved the franchise’s existence in western Pennsylvania. Two Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, and a giant pile of other awards later, Crosby has earned himself one of the most distinguished sports careers in history.
— The Hockey Writers (@TheHockeyWriter) August 25, 2016
However, when you are the face of a sport, it is bound to earn you some criticism. He has been called a whiner by fans and representatives of other teams (each of whom would love to have him on their team, by the way). His post-concussion(s) play has had it’s slumps, and as recently as last season there were concerns regarding the degrading of Crosby’s abilities. But a championship, and a playoff MVP later, he is back on top.
The Penguins and Crosby are as synonymous as the “flightless birds” once were with Mario Lemieux. This alone keeps him in the conversation of who is king.
Like Crosby, Roethlisberger has brought two championships to Pittsburgh with the Steelers and has come close to more. In a league that is now driven by offense, few passing games are more potent than the one led by “Big Ben”.
@EdBouchette ok he can sit now
— Steel Glory (@RickDuBois12) August 27, 2016
The Steelers have many weapons, and big personalities on both sides of the ball, but in the end as Roethlisberger goes, so go the Steelers. If he goes down with an injury, it takes what is possibly the best offense in the NFL, and dooms it to near irrelevance.
Yes, Roethlisberger is that big of a deal.
This is a difficult, but necessary nomination. “Cutch” is the face of the revitalized Pirates. He led the charge from the dark days of twenty consecutive losing seasons as the first true superstar in the franchise since the Barry Bonds era.
— Baseball Reference (@baseball_ref) August 26, 2016
But the Pirates have struggled this season, and a good portion of last year, with McCutchen being the face of much frustration. This year has been a large concern as his poor play has gone on long enough to no longer be classified as a slump. Yes, he has improved a bit of late, but the concern remains.
There are two reasons that we are having him in this conversation. Firstly, he is still the biggest name on the team. That is until he is traded, or one of the young outfielders completely overtakes him, which is very possible. Secondly, it was only two years ago that I nearly wrote an article proclaiming him to be the uncontested king of the city. For this alone, he deserves some benefit of the doubt. For now at least.
The explanation of McCutchen’s status showed both why he is in the conversation, and why he is immediately eliminated. As for Crosby, if we were talking about Toronto, Montreal, or any team north of the border, he would win easily. But Crosby is a victim of his own sport, which still struggles in the United States to move beyond niche status. Pittsburgh is a “hockey tahn”, but it is a city that prizes their Steelers above all others.
As a result, the biggest name, on the biggest team in the city wins. Yes, Roethlisberger has some blemishes on his resume, but right now no personality has a bigger impact on the Pittsburgh sports landscape than he does. That is enough to crown him king.
There are others who have the ability to challenge his claim to the throne in the future, such as Brown, Polanco, Cole, Bell, Matt Murray, and a few others. But right now, he is the king of the Burgh, n’at.
Until next time.
Greg is a Pittsburgh Penguins writer for ‘The Hockey Writers’.
He is a Pittsburgh area native who has written for multiple Penguins news and opinion sites. In addition to hockey writing, he is also an experienced YouTube creator.
Greg started with THW in 2015 as a Blue Jackets writer, and spent time as a Fantasy Hockey analyst.