The Patriots upset them 24-17 and went on to win their first of two Super Bowls in three years. Now they return to Pittsburgh riding a 21-game winning streak and the Steelers hope to give them a 21-gun salute - while burying the NFL's longest string of success.
"It's a big game and it will turn a lot of heads if we do well in this game," linebacker James Farrior said.
The Steelers already have turned some heads with their 5-1 record. They were long shots at best to win the AFC North. Now, coming off their bye week, the Steelers have a chance to pull into a tie for the best record in the conference. They are 3-point underdogs at home, an unusual position for them.
"We're just riding the boat, man," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "We have the opportunity to come back and play the world champs in your own backyard ... what more can you ask for? Do we have a chance? Yes."
Coach Bill Cowher is smarting from two straight losses to New England coach Bill Belichick, once in that AFC Championship Game upset in Heinz Field and their rematch in New England to open the 2002 season, when the Patriots confirmed their domination 30-14.
Cowher already owns a victory over Bill Parcells this season and he'd like to put to rest the perception that he has been outcoached by Belichick.
A team has never gone to the Super Bowl with a rookie quarterback. Can Ben Roethlisberger be the first?
"I think this is a quarterback you can win Super Bowls with," said Gil Brandt, who headed the Dallas Cowboys' personnel department in the 1970s and 1980s and now works as a senior analyst for NFL.com. "I think he has that kind of talent. The guy's got talent, character, he's smart -- all the things you need to have to be successful. And you talk about a guy who can move."
Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw thinks Roethlisberger will be in the saddle for a long, long time in Pittsburgh.
"The key for Roethlisberger or any quarterback is to have the ability to make the difference between winning and losing, and winning championships," said Bradshaw, who played 14 seasons with the Steelers. "It looks like Roethlisberger may be that quarterback.
"I'm very excited about the fact it looks like the Steelers have someone they can depend on to lead the team for the next 14 years."
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