Gosselin: Right now, this state looking Super

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    Rick Gosselin: Right now, this state looking Super

    08:42 PM CST on Saturday, November 6, 2004

    Baseball has its Subway Series. Could a Keystone Super Bowl be in the offing?

    As the NFL season chugs into November, the two franchises from Pennsylvania have emerged as the teams to beat in their respective conferences.

    The Philadelphia Eagles are the last of the NFL's unbeatens, steaming along with the best start in franchise history at 7-0. The Eagles have a two-game lead in the NFC East as well as a 1 ½ -game lead in the quest for home-field advantage on the NFC side of the playoffs.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers hold down the top seed in the AFC after a thrashing of the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, 34-20, last weekend. The Steelers and Patriots are both 6-1, but Pittsburgh owns the head-to-head tiebreaker for the AFC home field.

    The Steelers have the unique opportunity of ending perfect seasons on back-to-back weekends when they host the Eagles today. It's only the fifth time the teams have met since 1990.

    "This is not an NFC rivalry or an AFC rivalry," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "It's an in-state rivalry – probably as close as you'll get to those college rivalries you find in a state. It's a tribute to Coach [Bill] Cowher and what he's done there in Pittsburgh and what we've done here."

    Only twice in the 38-year history of the Super Bowl have two teams from the same state played for the championship. In 1995, the San Francisco 49ers routed the San Diego Chargers, and in 1991, the New York Giants edged the Buffalo Bills.

    Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were situated for a third such in-state Super Bowl meeting in 2001. Both teams were one game away – the Eagles visited the St. Louis Rams in the NFC title game and the Steelers hosted the Patriots in the AFC title game. But the teams from the Keystone State lost that day.

    But both teams had a glaring hole in the lineup then. Those holes have been patched in 2004. The Eagles needed a go-to receiver, and traded for Pro Bowler Terrell Owens. The Steelers needed a quarterback, and drafted Ben Roethlisberger in the first round.

    Owens leads the Eagles with 42 catches and the NFL with nine TD receptions. He brings a string of five consecutive 100-yard receiving games to Pittsburgh.

    Roethlisberger replaced the injured Tommy Maddox in the second week and has since won five consecutive starts. He ranks fourth in the NFL in passing efficiency despite his rookie status.

    "It's surprising to a degree how quickly he's been able to feel comfortable in the National Football League," Cowher said. "His decision-making has been excellent."

    It's still early in the season – things can change dramatically from Nov. 7 to Jan 7 – but this game stands as the first official Super Bowl preview of 2004. And it's strictly a Pennsylvania affair.

    E-mail rgosselin@**************

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