PITTSBURGH (AP) -This game has been on the Pittsburgh Steelers' minds for weeks and, finally, they can talk about it.
The Steelers (9-3) are convinced they can ruin New England's perfect season, and they were secretly rooting for the Patriots (12-0) to stay unbeaten so they would have the chance to do exactly that Sunday in Foxborough.
They know something about stopping New England streaks, too, having halted a record Patriots run only three years ago and, with it, the possibility of an undefeated season.
Pittsburgh almost didn't get this chance to keep New England out of the record book, as the Patriots were forced to stage a desperation rally to beat Baltimore 27-24 on Monday night. The week before, the Patriots trailed in the fourth quarter of a 31-28 win over Philadelphia.
Now, the Steelers could be the best team standing in the way of the Patriots and the NFL's first 16-0 regular season. After Pittsburgh, the Patriots play the Jets (3-9), the Dolphins (0-12) and the New York Giants (8-4).
``Obviously you think about it, because everybody talks about them because they are undefeated,'' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. ``Everything that has to do with news and sports is the New England Patriots, and deservedly so. They're a great football team offensively and defensively.''
The Patriots could be at a disadvantage because they will have a short week of preparation for the Steelers, who own the AFC's third-best record and are in contention for a wild-card playoff bye. Still, that same scenario didn't hurt the Steelers last week as they beat Miami 3-0 on Monday and the Bengals 24-10 on Sunday.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin willingly heaped plenty of praise on the Patriots during his weekly news conference Tuesday but, by the end, seemed to be wearying of all the how-great-are-the-Patriots questions.
``This isn't Appalachian State against Michigan,'' he said.
Even if some of the Patriots' scores - 52-7, 56-10, 38-14 - resemble an early season college mismatch. The Patriots have, by far, the league's top offense, leading in scoring average (39.1), yards per game (425.3) and passing yardage (304).
The Steelers counter with the league's best overall defense (230.8 yards), No. 1 passing defense (154 yards) and the No. 2 rushing defense (76.8).
``We'd better get ready - we know how explosive they are,'' linebacker Larry Foote said. ``But we're confident with our own swagger. If we play our game, we can beat anybody.''
Offensive tackle Max Starks said ``some teams might be star-struck by them,'' but the Steelers won't be.
``Some defenses might be, 'Oh my gosh, I'm going against Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth. Tom Brady is the quarterback.' Some people might get enamored with that,'' Starks said. ``But I definitely don't see that in our defense.''
The Steelers have this going for them, too: Only three seasons ago, they stopped a couple of long Patriots streaks, as well as New England's chance for an undefeated season.
Pittsburgh's 34-20 win at Heinz Field on Oct. 31, 2004, ended New England's record 18-game season winning streak and a 21-game overall winning streak. It also was the Patriots' first loss that season after a 6-0 start; the Patriots would finish 14-2 during the season and win the Super Bowl.
Turnovers led to that Halloween loss in Pittsburgh, with Brady throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble and Roethlisberger, still unbeaten as an NFL starter at the time, converting four Patriots mistakes into scores.
Still, Tomlin said nothing in the past means anything in this game and that Pittsburgh will prepare for New England like it does for any other opponent.
``We're going to play our game,'' he said. ``We don't let people dictate how we play defense. but we got to play our game and play it well.''
Notes: All three injured Steelers regulars could return Sunday: wide receiver Santonio Holmes (ankle), left tackle Marvel Smith (back) and safety Troy Polamalu (knee). They have missed the last two games. ... The Steelers will play in Foxborough for only the second time since 1997. They lost there 30-14 in their 2002 opener. ... The Steelers have offered no explanation for RB Najeh Davenport's absence from Sunday's 24-10 win over Cincinnati, other than he may have a sore knee.

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