The Pittsburgh Steelers seemed to be the near unanimous choice by most preseason publications to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego.
The Oakland Raiders, however, have a chance to put further doubt in that assessment when they visit Hines Field Sunday night in front of a nationally televised audience. This contest was a "Tuck Rule" away from being an AFC Title Game rematch but that's a whole other issue.
While the Raiders christened the Bill Callahan era with a 31-17 win over Seattle in a game they dominated even more than the final score suggests. Pittsburgh, however, looked anything but Super Bowl material in losing to New England 30-14 Monday night in a game that was not even that close.
That loss will not likely affect the Steelers enormously. Keep in mind Pittsburgh lost to Jacksonville 21-3 in the season opener last year and rebounded to win 13 of their last 15 regular season games. Few teams, however, recover from 0-2 starts to do great things so Oakland can put more doubt into the notion of Pittsburgh as the preseason favorite to reach the Super Bowl.
It's not likely that a Bill Cowher coached team will look bad two weeks in a row. In addition, Pittsburgh figures to be a better measuring stick than Seattle. If the Raiders stuff running back Jerome Bettis like they did Seattle's Shaun Alexander, who Oakland limited to 36 yards on 13 carries, that will go a long way toward winning in Pittsburgh. Despite the improvement of quarterback Kordell Stewart, the Steelers are clearly vulnerable when they cannot run with success.