PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s been quite the year! The coronavirus pandemic dominated the headlines in 2020, but there have been other big stories to start the decade.
Here’s a look back at some of the stories that made headlines in Pittsburgh this year.READ MORE: Overnight Wrong-Way Crash On I-79 Kills A Driver
STEELERS GO 11-0
In a season put into upheaval thanks to COVID-19 worries, the Steelers managed to go 11-0 before being defeated in Week 13 by the Washington Football Team. The winning streak served as a good distraction for fans as the pandemic worsened into the fall.
For 12 weeks, the Steelers chased perfection.
The Steelers would defeat the Giants, Broncos, Texans, Eagles, Browns, Titans, Ravens, Cowboys, Bengals, and Jaguars en route to a 11-0 start.
A quick and hot start did not come without adversity.
A COVID-19 outbreak among the Tennessee Titans forced the team to have its bye week moved to Week 4 rather than Week 7.
That didn’t faze the Steelers, winning 27-24.
Following the game against the Titans, JuJu Smith-Schuster shared a copy of a letter from the NFL in a social media post, showing that he was being fined for not properly wearing his game socks. Smith-Schuster would share in the same social media post that running back James Conner was also fined.
As with every season, injuries became a worry for the Steelers.
Two key pieces of the Steelers’ defense were felled by injuries that would end their seasons early.
Linebacker Devin Bush tore his ACL in Week 6 against the Browns and the injury required season-ending surgery.
Same as Bush, linebacker Bud Dupree would also tear his ACL just a few weeks later and he too would be out for the remainder of the season.
The scheduling of the Steelers’ Week 12 game vs. the Ravens tested the patience of Steeler Nation, as the game initially scheduled for Thanksgiving night would be postponed more than a few times due to Coronavirus cases among both teams.
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Eventually, the two teams would play during a never-before-seen 3:40 p.m. start time on a Wednesday afternoon, with the Steelers getting their 11th straight win to start the season.
The Steelers’ hot start would be followed by a three-game losing streak, losing to the Washington Football Team, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.
During the three-game skid, much was made of JuJu Smith-Schuster’s dancing on team logos while making TikTok videos.
Following the team’s third straight loss against the Bengals, Smith-Schuster said he was done dancing on the logos for the “betterment” of of himself and his teammates.
The Steelers would break the losing streak when they beat the Indianapolis Colts in a Week 16 comeback, 28-24.
That win would also give the Steelers the AFC North Division title.
“Battleground states” — it was a term we heard a lot in 2020. Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, but the spotlight was pointed heavily on Pennsylvania. Particularly on Western Pennsylvania.
President Donald Trump and now President-Elect Joe Biden made stop after stop, focusing on the Pittsburgh area and its outlying counties.
President Trump made several stops in Pennsylvania during the fall when the campaigning kicked into high gear. Thousands of supporters would gather as rallies were held at Pittsburgh International Airport, in Butler County, and at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Westmoreland County.
“I’m not kidding, I truly believe that Donald Trump was sent by God." Supporters of President Trump were seen camping out at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport ahead of his rally tonight in Latrobe. https://t.co/TaZiKB2jNB pic.twitter.com/0XeHD2eDfd
— KDKA (@KDKA) September 3, 2020
While making a campaign stop in Western Pennsylvania in July, Vice President Mike Pence’s motorcade was involved in two separate accidents while traveling to Greensburg.
During a train ride campaign tour across Pennsylvania, then-Democratic presidential candidate Biden said he had no regrets about telling President Trump to “shut up” during one of their highly contentious debates.
The Biden campaign both started and finished their successful run for the White House here in Pittsburgh. His first campaign stop after announcing his candidacy last year was held in Pittsburgh, and on Election Day Eve this November, the Bidens returned to the Steel City for a drive-in rally with the one and only Lady Gaga!
Delays with the mail, made the U.S. Postal Service a focus of the election, too. The story became local when two Pittsburgh-area mail carriers were federally charged with delay or destruction of mail by a postal employee.
In the end, President-Elect Biden prevailed, re-taking Pennsylvania for the Democrats. Western Pennsylvania played a big part in his victory. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald estimated more than 700,000 people in Allegheny County voted in the general election.
GEORGE FLOYD’S DEATH SPARKS NATIONWIDE PROTESTS
May 25 is a day that shook the nation and the world, and brought to the forefront the issue of systemic racism in the United States and the long need to address and deal with it. It is the day George Floyd died while in police custody in Minneapolis.
The disturbing cellphone video was shown across the world, and touched off protests, rallies and marches.
Many were peaceful, with activists calling for change; but as anger and frustration grew, unrest and violence began popping up. From Minneapolis to Atlanta to New York City to Los Angeles to right here in Pittsburgh.
On May 30, what started as a peaceful march spun out of control near PPG Paints Arena.
The protest officially turned violent around two hours into the demonstration. Protesters were seen spray-painting a police car, throwing projectiles, smashing glass, attacking the news media and more. The most iconic image from that day is the parked Pittsburgh Police cruiser set ablaze just outside of the Church of the Epiphany located at Washington Place and Centre Avenue.
Numerous people were arrested and faced charges for the violence, including 43 adults and one juvenile on just the day of the protest.
Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert expressed the belief that those responsible were not there to protest the death of George Floyd, but just to create chaos and cause harm. Brian Bartels, 20, from the Allison Park area, was taken into custody June 1. During a raid of a home in Shaler, investigators say they found evidence that linked Bartels to the protests — guns, spray paint and gloves.
In the days and months after Floyd’s death, there were many protests throughout the city.
Cellphone video from a march downtown in September was reviewed by investigators. The viral video showed demonstrators and restaurant-goers clashing on Penn Avenue. A person can be seen walking over to a couple, grabbing a beer off their table and drinking it. Another video showed demonstrators chasing away a group of people who rode their bikes through the crowd. One of the riders is seen in the video smacking a bullhorn that belonged to one of the protesters, then getting whacked over the helmet with a skateboard.
Also in September, just ahead of the Steelers’ opening game of the season against the New York Giants, the team announced that it would be wearing Antwon Rose Jr.’s name on the back of their helmets.
Villanueva’s decision stirred up controversy across the social media world and spurred discussion among teammates and management alike.
In tribute to George Floyd, Antwon Rose, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and more, a Black Lives Matter mural painted along the Allegheny River over the summer. The artist did not ask for permission before painting the piece, but PennDOT, which owns the wall that runs along the Riverwalk downtown, allowed it to stay.
It was vandalized a few times, but fixed and stood as a symbol of hope in a summer of turmoil.
In November, the original artist painted over the mural with black paint in order to repair and redevelop the mural with other artists.
“We’re doing the base coat now and it’s going to be a gold bevel type of feel, to give it that hip-hop culture looks, and for the inside of the letters, we’re leaving them hollow so, in the spring, we’re going to give opportunity for multiple artists to come and fill in and be a part of the mural for a bigger festival,” artist Cameron Nesbit said.
THE O GOES OUT OF BUSINESS
For years, it was a staple in Oakland, not just for Pitt students, but for all Pittsburghers.
The Original Hot Dog Shop shut its doors in April and announced they would not reopen.READ MORE: Man Shot In The Stomach In Swissvale
While many were struck by the news, one Pittsburgh native initially expressed interest in buying the iconic restaurant and keeping it running – Mark Cuban.
Ultimately, Cuban did not purchase “The O” and the new owners announced plans for two new restaurants to take the place of the Oakland classic.
“The O” was later mentioned as part of a New York Times feature on restaurants that became permanently shuttered during the pandemic.
CHERON SHELTON TRIAL
More than three years after five people and an unborn baby were killed in a backyard barbecue shooting in Wilkinsburg, a jury found suspect Cheron Shelton not guilty of murder.
They were tasked with deciding if Shelton was innocent or guilty of first-degree murder or third-degree murder.
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The trial began in February with two suspects, Shelton and Robert Thomas. Charges against Thomas would be dropped after a witness for the prosecution admitted to committing a murder in a separate case.
There was also an ongoing back-and-forth between prosecutors and Shelton’s defense attorneys who claimed a witness told them he was paid to fabricate information about Shelton.
Then, in September, the case came back into the spotlight when John Ellis, one of the men wounded in the shooting, died from his injuries. He was shot multiple times and was paralyzed.
Before his death, Ellis said he lived next door to where the shooting happened and was invited to the cookout. It was a decision that changed his life forever. He said one bullet caused a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
At the time of Shelton’s acquittal, Ellis was furious and said he couldn’t understand what the jury didn’t see and that “somebody did something to us.”
JUDGE MARK TRANQUILLI RESIGNS
In early February, career prosecutor and Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Mark Tranquilli was accused of making racially-charged remarks during a closed-door conference.
A memorandum obtained by KDKA laid out what Tranquilli allegedly said behind closed doors.
In the closed-door meeting with a defense attorney and an assistant district attorney, Tranquilli is quoted as calling a black woman juror “Aunt Jemima” and mused about her having a drug-dealing “baby daddy” at home. There was no transcript of the conference, and no court reporter or stenographer was present.
In his written statement, Assistant DA Ted Dutkowski said he was so sickened by the remarks that he wished to leave the judge’s chambers and was moved to write a complaint detailing what was said.
President Judge Kim Berkley Clark issued an order temporarily re-assigning Tranquilli. Days later, he was assigned to administrative duties only.
The Pittsburgh chapter of the NAACP then took action, calling for an investigation into Tranquilli’s conduct. The chairman of B-PEP, or the he Black Political Empowerment Project, called for Tranquilli to be relieved of his duties.
“He should not be making any decision for anybody,” Tim Stevens, of B-PEP, said.
Had he gone forward with the trial, Tranquilli would have faced other witnesses and allegations of making racially insensitive remarks.
In its report, the conduct board said Tranquilli’s actions show “bias, prejudice and harassment,” “bring the office into disrepute” and “undermine public confidence”. At trial, he faced censure, suspension, fines or removal from office.
THE ODD & UNBELIEVABLE IN AN ODD & UNBELIEVABLE YEAR
No one will look back on 2020 without saying it was both an unbelievable and odd year.
We should have seen the signs, especially to start the year when there were reports of a strange sound emanating throughout the South Side. People had been calling the police to report the sounds of a child crying but when they would arrive, the sound disappeared and no child could be found.
A meteor would light up the Pittsburgh skies in late September, causing quite the buzz on social media. When what appeared to be a fireball flew across the atmosphere, many were wondering what they just witnessed. It turns out that a meteor that was significant in size was spotted in 15 states.
As so many of us were stuck inside our homes throughout most of the year due to the pandemic, it became a time to enjoy cold beer, but from the comfort of our couches rather than a stool at the local bar.However, as we were warned, the elderly population was most at risk for the COVID-19 pandemic, so 93-year-old Olive Veronesi went viral with her sign saying she needed more beer.
Veronesi asked for more beer and Molson-Coors wasted no time, delivering her 150 Coors Light beers.
“Got more beer!”
Did she ever.
Prior to the pandemic, we saw a former Nickelodeon star discover one of the most iconic companies in Pittsburgh – Giant Eagle.
Josh Peck, the former co-star of the 2000s Nickelodeon hit “Drake & Josh” found himself at the Robinson Township Market District Giant Eagle and was mesmerized.
“I’m at a Pittsburgh-ian supermarket right now,” he started. “What the… oh, I’m sorry, is there a sporting event happening, because I’m in an arena!”
Whether it was the packaging, finding products that reminded him of his childhood, or just some crackers, Peck had one request on his Instagram story for his wife.
“Paige, wife, what are we doing in LA? We should move!”
As far as we know, Peck has not become a Yinzer.
Almost one year after a giant sinkhole nearly swallowed a Port Authority bus in downtown Pittsburgh, 10th Street reopened after extensive repairs and work.
A LOOK BACK AT THE PENGUINS & PIRATES SHORTENED SEASONS:
While it may not have gone the way the team wanted, the Penguins were part of the NHL’s unprecedented playoff bubble.
In July, the Penguins made their way to Toronto for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers – a round that would determine the bottom four seeds in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Penguins found themselves fifth in the Eastern Conference, taking on the bottom-seeded Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens would shock the Penguins, beating them 3-1 in the best-of-five qualifying round, sending the Penguins out of the bubble in just about a week.
Meanwhile, a shortened season for the Pirates would not be a kind one.
The Pirates would finish with an MLB-worst 19-41 record, but there was a silver lining to a miserable season – they will have the first-overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft.
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Now, get outta here 2020! In general, you were awful to us one and all.