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Quite The Opposites

All things considered, the Eagles and Steelers have about as much of a rivalry as peanut butter and jelly.

For two programs situated in the same state, a six-hour drive is quite a distance, and the four years between regular-season matchups seems an even wider gap. And for Philadelphia fans, Pittsburgh's five Super Bowl titles aren't nearly as obnoxious as the fistful of rings in Dallas.

So, outside of the general disdain between the fanbases in the melting pot of State College, right in the middle of the state, there's a mutual respect between the franchises once combined as the "Steagles" during World War II in 1943.

Peanut butter and jelly, indeed.


QB Ben Roethlisberger
"I respect and love playing the Eagles, even when I wasn't in the state of Pennsylvania," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. "You know what you're going to get from these guys. They've competed and played at a high level for a long time. And it's the same cast of characters."

Lately, the "PA" at the end of the address pretty much ends the similarities between the two teams. Five teams are located closer to Philadelphia than Pittsburgh is, and vice versa.

The Steelers are historically famous for pounding it out on the ground, while the Eagles have had the most aggressive aerial attack in football throughout the past decade. The Steelers throw out a more unconventional 3-4 defense, and the Eagles rush seven from the 4-3. The Steelers have their defensive backs roam in zone coverage, the Eagles prefer to man up on receivers.

The conference is different, the mindset is different. It's a different brand of football from a different kind of town, blue-collar football from a city shifting its focus from steel to technology. In Philadelphia, the high-tech offense puts on a show for citizens proud of their laborers' work as much as their team.

"You can either love (the Philadelphia passion) or hate it," Tomlin said. "I choose to love it."

Tomlin's seen the Philadelphia fans at their worst. As the secondary coach in Tampa Bay in 2002, Tomlin saw Ronde Barber take his Buccaneers 92 yards down the Veterans Stadium turf and into the Super Bowl. The implosion of the Vet wouldn't happen for another year, but it might as well have happened that day.

That's when Tomlin - only 29 at the time and still just 19 months older than Eagles star Brian Dawkins - got the ring that has eluded the Eagles. And last season, he took over in a city that in 2005 saw its heroes rise to the top for the first time in 26 years.

This season, they seem to be speeding out of the gates to much of the same success. In fact, with a 2-0 start, the Steelers might have jumped to the top of the AFC's elite with the injury to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and lackluster performances from perceived contenders like San Diego, Indianapolis and Jacksonville.

But making a statement in Philadelphia could affect that perception for the Steelers, so don't expect any love on Sunday. Still, Tomlin admitted he enjoyed watching the Eagles and Cowboys trade uppercuts last Monday.

But that's where the love ends. At least for this week.

"It was a pleasure to watch from a fan's perspective, but that quickly subsided when I reminded myself that we've got to play one of those teams here this week," Tomlin said. "It loses its entertainment value, to say the least."

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