The 2015-2016 NFL season has come to an end, and the Denver Broncos have claimed their third Vince Lombardi Trophy. Peyton Manning is the oldest QB to start a Super Bowl, and Manning may head to retirement after winning his second title in four tries. Von Miller was the game’s Most Valuable Player. The night started with a parade of past MVPs. All five Steelers SB MVPs were there, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann and Terry Bradshaw (who won twice) were joined by Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.
The Penguins are back from their two-game trip to Florida with a day off on Sunday. Sidney Crosby had a three-point night to help lead the Pens to a come-from-behind win over the Florida Panthers. Crosby is now tied with Evgeni Malkin for the team lead with 49 points.
In a flash, the injury bug has hit the Penguins, and they’re suddenly very thin at center.
Nick Bonino out with a hand injury, and you can add Eric Fehr and Evgeni Malkin to the list. Fehr is out for at least a month with what head coach Mike Sullivan calls a significant lower-body injury. The injury to Malkin came as a bit of a surprise. He won’t make the trip to Florida, and will be reevaluated when the Penguins return from the weekend trip, “it did not happen yesterday in practice,” Sullivan told a group of reporters on Thursday, “it was brought to our attention after practice, but it’s been something that’s been nagging him for a little while.”
As hard as it is to believe, Thursday is the 20th anniversary of Super Bowl XXX. On January 28, 1996, the Steelers put together a dramatic comeback at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, but lost to the Dallas Cowboys 27-17. It was the first loss for the Steelers in a Super Bowl. Larry Brown intercepted Neil O’Donnell twice in the second half and became the first cornerback to win Super Bowl MVP. Vanessa Williams sang the national anthem and Diana Ross was lowered on a trapeze to the field from a helicopter for the halftime show. At the time, the game broke the record for the most-watched sporting event of all-time (on American television). It also became, at the time, the second highest-rated television program ever, trailing only the final episode of M-A-S-H.
The Penguins are heading into the All-Star break on a roll, winning their third game in a row with a 2-0 win over the New Jersey Devils at the Consol Energy Center. It was Marc-Andre Fleury’s 42nd career shutout. That win puts the Pens back in the wildcard playoff picture at the break. Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang will represent the Pens in the All-Star game. The rest of the Pens players will get a rest through the weekend. The Pens resume their schedule next Tuesday with Ottawa.
The NHL All-Star game is Sunday in Nashville, but noticeably absent from the game will be Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. Sid started the day no higher than 26th on the NHL scoring list, but he remains one of the league’s most accomplished and high-profile players. Yet he won’t be with the league’s stars this weekend. This morning I asked Crosby if he thought it would be strange not being there, “no i wouldn’t say that…might enjoy the rest, you know I mean, if you’re not there, you have to make the most of the five days, so yeah, I think just like everyone else, you take advantage of the five days and get ready for the stretch run.”
Super Bowl 50 is set. For the first time ever, two #1 overall picks will face off in the big game. Peyton Manning and Cam Newton were drafted #1 overall 13 years apart. In Sunday’s NFC Championship, the Carolina Panthers forced seven turnovers, and Newton was superb, passing for two touchdowns and running for two others as Carolina took apart Arizona. Newton, at age 26, and in his 5th nfl season, gets to his first Super Bowl, “For people to not pull in your favor..to say that it’s only a matter of time…To say that the Carolina Panthers are this, that, and a third..we hear it and for it to turn out like this…It just makes it all worth while but..yeah i keep saying we’re not finished.” Meanwhile, in the AFC Championship, the Broncos beat the Patriots by 2, and five-time MVP Peyton Manning earns a trip to his 4th super bowl. Manning becomes the oldest quarterback to lead his team to the big game, “It’s been a unique season there’s no question about it….and this game was a unique football game…But everybody did their part and truly it was a team win…”
Peyton Manning seems to have it all. He’s respected across the league as the consummate professional. He has a nice family, a long list of NFL records, a Super Bowl ring and an estimated net worth of over $150 million. But as we start the insufferable two weeks leading up to the 50th edition of the Super Bowl, Manning will be the sentimental pick and the feel-good story across the country. Cam Newton has tons of talent and one of the brightest futures in the league, but the present centers around Peyton’s possible swansong. Manning isn’t the great quarterback he once was. He’s not even close. But he’s easy to root for, especially when so many wrote him off. At 39, Manning becomes the oldest quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl. The veteran who seems to have it all might get one bonus win before he fades into the record books.
As the Penguins get set to host the Flyers, new acquired forward Carl Hagelin practiced as a Penguin for the first time yesterday. Hagelin says that even though he’s only been with the Pens for less than a week, he’s already familiar with the Pens-Flyers rivalry, “What I’ve heard is Philly usually plays its best games of the year against Pittsburgh. It means we’re gonna come out and do everything we can to play our best hockey. It’s important to get pucks deep because we know they’re gonna come out hard. They’re a physical team so we have to make sure thatwe match that.”
Mike Tomlin took a few moments on Tuesday to reflect on the 2015 season, and just like that, he shifted the focus to 2016. In many ways, it was a solid season. Despite a long list of injuries, and the suspensions at the start, the Steelers still earned an AFC Wild Card berth with a 10-6 record. The Steelers also advanced to the second weekend of postseason. But falling short of the ultimate goal leaves a sour feeling for Mike Tomlin, “I’m disappointed and that’s just an honest answer. I think we all are. When we said our goal was to be world champion we meant it, and it was not us this year and so there’s disappointment associated with that.”