The Cowboys are "America's Team," and Steelers Nation hates them for that and what they stand for.
It's not so much a rivalry based on competition, but one based on a way of life: Glamour vs. Blue-collar idealism.
Why are the Cowboys so glamorous?
"I think they have a glamour owner," said Steelers free safety Ryan Clark. "You see Mr. Rooney, he walks around, unassuming, just a great guy. He's never really in front of the cameras, and when he is in front of the cameras there's usually a good reason. Whereas Jerry Jones, he's a money-maker. He knows how to put his team in the forefront. He knows how to make his team Hollywood. They do training camp in California. They're always making blockbuster trades and free agent moves. When you put your team out there like that, and they perform, that's going to be the glamour team."
The Cowboys have performed this year. They are 8-4 and have overcome a month-long loss of quarterback Tony Romo. He returned three games ago, led the team to three wins, and propelled himself to the top of the NFL passer rating list (103.2).
Of course, the last time the Steelers faced the league's top passer, Philip Rivers was intercepted twice and led his team to only 10 points in a loss. The Steelers also were the first to intercept Jason Campbell this season and last week sent Matt Cassel back to reality.
But Clark says Romo, the undrafted free agent from Eastern Illinois, is the real deal.
"He really is," Clark said. "I think he plays free. It's just rare to see. You see it in guys like Brett Favre, and Jay Cutler is coming along like that, too. Romo is definitely in the upper echelon of quarterbacks."
It helps that Romo has a deep threat like Terrell Owens. The 34-year-old hasn't slowed much. He's second in the NFL with 8 touchdown catches. His 52 catches ranks second on his team behind tight end Jason Witten (58-709). The other tight end, 6-6 rookie Marcellus Bennett, has caught touchdown passes in each of the last three games. The other Cowboys wide receivers are Patrick Crayton (31-409) and talented newcomer Roy Williams (11-161) from the Detroit Lions.
"They've got all the weapons a good offense has: a good quarterback, good receiver, great running back, a big offensive line," said Steelers linebacker James Farrior. "They've got all the tools to get the job done. We'll have to stop the run first and foremost and then let the dogs loose after that."
But Cowboys running back Marion Barber (870 yards rushing, 3.9 avg.) has missed practice all week with a dislocated pinkie toe. If he plays, he'll play with a plate in his shoe.
"I really don't see that as a problem," said Farrior. "It's a little toe anyway."
Defensively, the Cowboys are second in the league in sacks, two behind the Steelers. DeMarcus Ware, the right outside linebacker, leads the NFL with 15 sacks. His bookend, Greg Ellis, has five, while nose tackle Jay Ratliff has six.
The Cowboys, like the Steelers, run a 3-4 scheme and rank 10th in the league overall. They can rush the passer, but only rank 20th in opposition passer rating.
"Their 3-4 is a lot different than ours," said Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley. "Our 3-4 is different from any other across the league. We get different looks. Our defensive linemen and outside linebackers are asked to do certain things other teams don't do.
"Another thing their quarterback is going to see is the weather. It's going to be different than what's going on in Texas. In this game, it might be 20 degrees and snow, with the wind coming off that water. It's definitely going to be a different environment as well."
In other words, Heinz Field might not be the place for America's Team to get glamorous.