Steelers will be doggin' it

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- The Atlanta Falcons will be rare birds Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.

Not only is the NFC playoff contender making a visit to Heinz Field for the first time in eight seasons, they are doing so as two-point favourites.

The Steelers may be among the favourites in the AFC, but until they show they can win a game without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, there are going to be skeptics -- and that includes Vegas bookmakers.

It's conceivable that the Steelers could be 'dogs in all but one of their four games without Big Ben -- a Week 3 matchup against Tampa.

That said, the Steelers intend to come out with the swagger that has made their stadium one of the stoutest home-field advantages in the NFL.

"We are going to be underdogs every week, especially in the first four games," said veteran receiver Hines Ward. "It's because of our quarterback situation, but that's fine. We play better as underdogs."

It's a feeling they might need to get used to before Roethlisberger returns in Week 6 (the Steelers fifth game) against Cleveland.

During his four-game suspension, Pittsburgh has to play three teams that would be considered playoff possibilities -- Atlanta, Tennessee and Baltimore. A 1-3 start -- or worse would make for a rough ride the rest of the way.

"We're trying to accentuate the positive and minimize the negative," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. "We're not taking a glass half-empty approach."

The glass half-full approach then would be that the Steelers have far from the toughest schedule in the league -- the 21st ranked in fact. Besides a pair of games against their division "rival" Browns, the Steelers also face the Bills and Raiders.


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