PITTSBURGH - The mighty Pittsburgh Steelers, equipped with a record six Super Bowl titles, a 14-4 record, the No. 2 AFC seed and a veteran roster on the verge of three championships in the past six seasons, are underdogs for Super Bowl XLV.
Don't worry. It's not you. It doesn't make much sense to the Steelers, either.
But here Pittsburgh (14-4) is, fresh off its 24-19 win over the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Sunday night, installed by the Las Vegas oddsmakers as about a three-point underdog against Green Bay (13-6), the NFC's No. 6 seed.
"I kind of don't understand what everybody sees that we don't see,'' Steelers defensive back Ike Taylor said.
For a team that wasn't picked by many to win its division, told it would get off to a rocky start without its suspended quarterback for the first four games and fought through it all to get to the franchise's record-tying eighth Super Bowl, being the underdog is a role the Steelers are eager to embrace.
"I think we do our best when we're underdogs,'' Steelers defensive lineman Chris Hoke said. "People were talking at the beginning of the season, how we were going to go 6-10 or 7-9. And how two years ago, when we went to the Super Bowl in '08, we had the toughest schedule in NFL history, 'Are they going to be able to make it out of this schedule?'
"I think when you put our backs against the wall, when you tell us that we're an underdog and we can't do something, that's when we fight and we're at our best.''
Maybe Hoke is on to something. The franchise's most recent run of championships began when it slipped into the playoffs as a No. 6 seed, upset three teams with better records on the road and beat the NFC's top seed, Seattle, for the Super Bowl.
Nineteen players from that team are on this roster in a season in which it played its first four games with a third-, and then a fourth-string quarterback.
Ben Roethlisberger was suspended by the league until Week 5, and backup Byron Leftwich sustained a knee sprain during the preseason. That meant Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch quarterbacked the Steelers to a surprising 3-1 start. Four months later, they're packing their bags for Dallas.
"We like to go into every game as underdogs,'' receiver Mike Wallace said.