Steelers' victory added bull's-eye

The Steelers' victory over New England and their 6-1 record added something to Pittsburgh's black and gold uniforms.

"We've got one of those big circles on our chest with a big black dot in the middle, coach Bill Cowher said. "It's called a bull's-eye.

The Steelers came into the season lugging the kind of reputation a team acquires after going 6-10. They were 40-1 longshots to win the Super Bowl. Now those odds are down to 10-1 after they rattled off five straight, including last week's thumping of the New England Patriots and their 21-game win streak.

"We're no longer under the radar, coach Bill Cowher said.

The Steelers can become the first team in NFL history to sweep back-to-back victories against unbeaten teams this late in the season when they play the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field on Sunday. They have not lost at home in four games this season and have a six-game winning streak in Heinz Field.

Some think this might be a Super Bowl preview of an all-Pennsylvania game. Both teams have had their share of chances to get there and fumbled them away. The Eagles lost the last three NFC championship games, the past two at home. The Steelers lost three out of four AFC championship games - all at home - over the previous 10 seasons, most recently in 2001.

Many still view Pittsburgh as an upstart and are waiting for them to collapse the way the Minnesota Vikings started out 6-0 last year and did not make the playoffs. The Steelers already have matched their win total from last season, and they've run out to a two-game lead over Baltimore in the AFC North Division.

They do have what could be a grueling schedule in the second half of the season. After Philadelphia, they finish with five of their eight games on the road, beginning with two in a row in Ohio at Cleveland and Cincinnati. After they play the Washington Redskins at home, they play three or four teams likely to reach the playoffs - at Jacksonville, home to the Jets, at the Giants and then home to the Ravens.

That's why beating New England and Philadelphia would be so important to the Steelers. They will have built up a cushion entering that difficult stretch in the second half and leave themselves room for some error.

"We have to be able to back up and be able to show up every week, Cowher said. "It is a challenge. If you don't, then you become that up and down football team. That is what we have to do, we have to become a more consistent football team with our effort, with our execution.

"When you watch us play the way we did last week, there is no reason why we should not do that every week."

Deep down, Cowher felt this would be a transition year, especially once rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had to play. Now it has become quite different, now they see a chance to get to the Super Bowl.

History Books - 76th meeting, the Eagles hold a commanding 46-26-3 record in the series and also are 2-1 over Bill Cowher's Steelers. Pittsburgh is behind at home as well, 17-19-1. The Steelers have only two wins over the Eagles since the NFL merger in 1970 sent Pittsburgh to the new AFC and kept the Eagles with the old-line NFL teams in the NFC. In 1943, the teams joined together in World War II to compete as one, known as the Steagles.

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