PITTSBURGH (AP) -Ben Roethlisberger wasn't born yet when the Dallas-Pittsburgh rivalry thrived with two 1970s-era Super Bowl matchups, back when the Cowboys first gained the nickname of America's Team but the Steelers were America's champions.
The Steelers quarterback gains an appreciation each day for what those Doomsday Defenses versus the Steel Curtain games meant not only to the nearly two dozen Hall of Famers who played in them, but the cities they represent.
The numerous pictures displayed at Steelers headquarters - and the two Super Bowl trophies earned by beating Dallas - tell him all he needs to know.
``It's here every day when you walk in,'' Roethlisberger said. ``You know how special it is from a team standpoint. To us, it's another huge game.''
Huge, indeed.
nd the quarterbacks were Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw, not Roethlisberger and Tony Romo.
The Steelers (9-3) could make the playoffs for the sixth time in eight years by winning, as long as the Patriots and Dolphins lose. Also, Mike Tomlin could become the first coach in the franchise's 76-year history to win at least 10 games in each of his first two seasons.
For the Cowboys, it's even more of a must-win game. They probably need to win three of their final four to reach the playoffs and, with the Giants, Ravens and Eagles to follow, there's not much margin for error.
``This is the type of game that you want to play in,'' Cowboys linebacker Bradie James said. ``Because if you don't play well against these guys, it kind of lets you know where you are. We need every game going into the stretch.''
Dallas will be challenged not only by a Pittsburgh defense that leads the league in every major category - no defense has been so dominant statistically since the 1991 Eagles - but its own discouraging run of Decembers.
The Cowboys are 17-28 in December games dating to their last playoff victory 12 years ago. No wonder they probably won't like this frigid Pittsburgh-in-December forecast: snow showers and a gametime temperature of 26.
To Tomlin, that record - and the Cowboys' 8-4 season mark - matter not a bit.
m when their quarterback (Tony Romo) is playing.''
Romo is 3-0 with six touchdown passes and one interception since returning from a broken right little finger, leading an offense that has scored 34-plus points and gained more than 400 yards in its last two games.
Romo's challenge: The Steelers' No. 1-ranked defense hasn't allowed a team - much less a passer - to gain 300 yards. Pittsburgh gives up 166.8 yards per game passing, far less than the Cowboys offense's average of 244 yards through the air.
``I think they're fantastic,'' said Romo, a noted risk-taker with a league-high 103.2 passer rating who probably can't afford many mistakes against this defense. ``It's going to be an incredible challenge for us to move the ball. They're every bit as good as people say. When you look at it, you just don't know how you are going to move the ball against these guys.''
Cowboys coach Wade Phillips, an assistant 30 years ago under father Bum when the Oilers twice lost to Pittsburgh in AFC championship games, said this defense compares favorably to that famed Steel Curtain.
While cold weather gear will be necessary, perhaps this will become known as the pajama game.
y practicing in a pair of Homer Simpson pajama pants.
The Steelers never go about their work so casually, with safety Ryan Clark saying this game illustrates the difference between Hollywood's team (Dallas) and the heartland's team (Pittsburgh).
``They have a glamour element,'' Clark said. ``(Steelers chairman) Dan Rooney, you never seen him in front of the cameras. And then Jerry Jones, he loves it. He knows how to put his team in the forefront and he knows how to make his team Hollywood.''
Roethlisberger is about as big as it gets as a celebrity in Pittsburgh, but he can't compare to Romo and his tabloid-filling romance with singer Jessica Simpson.
``I don't mean this to sound rude, but he's asking for it (the attention),'' said Roethlisberger, whose best-known fling was with golfer Natalie Gulbis. ``He's dating high profile, he's doing all the stuff that he wants to do. That's the life he chooses to live off the football field and that's his choice.''
Clark joked he once kept up with Romo's romance but, ``I stopped reading US Weekly - I felt kind of feminine. But he is an awesome quarterback.''
A bigger Dallas worry is that running back Marion Barber (870 yards) probably won't be 100 percent because of a dislocated toe. The Steelers allow only 71.2 yards rushing, the lowest average since the 1970 NFL merger.
during a 33-10 rout of New England by having him split carries with Mewelde Moore. The Steelers finished with 161 yards rushing, the most they've had since their opener.
Roethlisberger, sacked 33 times, needs a similar running game to limit Dallas pass rusher DeMarcus Ware. Ware has a league-high 15 sacks, one more than Pittsburgh's James Harrison. Ware has a hyperextended left knee but expects to play.
Much like Roethlisberger, the pregame attention focused on two of the NFL's signature franchises helped James learn more about a rivalry that created two of the most entertaining and competitive Super Bowls during the 1970s.
Remember Lynn Swann's impossible catches? Franco Harris' running? Cowboys linebacker Thomas ``Hollywood'' Henderson's putdown that Bradshaw couldn't spelled ``cat'' if he was spotted the ``c'' and the ``a''?
``They have just as many Lombardis (five) as we do,'' James said. ``To play against those guys with all the history implications, not only history but what's going on right now, it will be a great game.''

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