Eagles, Steelers in the state Penn

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger can expect a rough ride from the Eagles defence on Sunday. (Reuters)

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger can expect a rough ride from the Eagles defence on Sunday. (Reuters)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:54 AM ET

TORONTO - In most places in the world, the first two letters in “Philadelphia” are “Ph.”

But not in Pittsburgh, where “Philadelphia” is an “F-word.”

Indeed, in Steeltown, mentioning Philly is like uttering an obscenity.

Just ask Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, whose 1-2 Steelers will host the cross-state rival Eagles, 3-1, on Sunday.

While the Eagles and Steelers only meet once every four years because they reside in different conferences, Big Ben knows the bitterness that arises whenever the NHL Penguins lock helmets with the hated Flyers. Roethlisberger even admitted this week that he has participated in the anti-Philly sentiment by jeering the Flyers himself.

“We definitely want to get back on track,” Roethlisberger told Pittsburgh reporters when asked about Sunday’s game. “But it’s probably just as much Pittsburgh versus Philadelphia.

“It’s not a division game. It’s AFC versus NFC. But no matter what sport it is, it seems to be Pittsburgh versus Philly and a general hatred. That’s what I’ve noticed since I moved here about Philadelphia.”

Roethlisberger then broke into a wide grin.

“I’m always rooting for the Pittsburgh team,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that. I like to watch the (Penguins) fans boo the Flyers. So I boo, too.”

Given Roethlisberger’s comments, there are now two Pittsburgh superstars who are not partial to the City of Brotherly Love. Sidney Crosby, of course, is the other.

Remember Game 3 of the first-round series between the Flyers and Penguins this past spring, a brawlfest that featured 158 penalty minutes and a scrap between Crosby and Philly’s Claude Giroux?

“I don’t like any guy on their team there,” Crosby said afterwards.

Obviously the Flyers organization and its fans felt the same way about Crosby, judging by the fact that every spectator entering the Wells Fargo Center for Game 4 was handed a free orange T-shirt with the words “We don’t like you either!” splattered on it.

On that same day, a photoshop image in the Philadelphia Daily News depicted Crosby as the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz, complete with facial hair. “The Cowardly Penguin!” blared the headline.

“That’s one of the nicer things they’ve called me here,” responded Crosby, whose father, Troy, often declines to attend his son’s games in Philly in order to avoid fan abuse.

Roethlisberger was called a few expletives himself when the Steelers and Eagles last met in Philly four years ago. This time around, however, the Eagles are the team marching into enemy territory.

In the process. Michael Vick and co. will be in for a rude welcome, one symbolized by the snarling face of linebacker James Harrison.

Having looked old and slow in losses to Denver and Oakland, the Steelers are expected to welcome back Harrison and kamikaze safety Troy Polamalu to their lineup. Polamalu missed two games with a strained right calf, while Harrison hasn’t played this season after undergoing knee surgery in August.

Facing these two former NFL Defensive Players of the Year can not sit well with Vick and the Eagles, who turned over the ball a whopping 12 times in their first three games before cleaning up their act and committing zero turnovers in a victory over the New York Giants last Sunday.

It has been more than nine months since Harrison has had the opportunity to crunch an opposing quarterback in a game, so you can bet he’ll be drooling with anticipation. So, too, will Polamalu, whose penchant for making key interceptions and forcing fumbles could create chaos for the Eagles.

“It’s no more excuses,” Steelers safety Ryan Clark said. “We can’t run in here and say, ‘Well we don’t have Troy, we don’t have James.’ We have everybody that we’re supposed to have, so we have to make plays.”

The Steelers dormant ground game should also be boosted by the expected season debut of running back Rashard Mendenhall, who tore his knee up in the 2011 regular-season finale.

All the while, the Eagles will be jeered. Loudly. Going by Roethlisberger’s comments, that’s what you do in Pittsburgh when a Philly team comes to town.

Just one question: If Big Ben boos the Flyers at Pens games, will Sid the Kid be on hand at Heinz Field on Sunday doing the same to the Eagles?

It would be fitting.

VICK WAS NIXED BY STEELERS

Michael Vick in Steelers black and gold?

It could have happened had Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin pushed his interest in Vick three years ago.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tomlin’s intrigue in Vick, then a free agent, was thwarted by the Rooney family, who had no desire to bring in a felon who had just finished serving 21 months in prison for pleading guilty to a federal felony charge of running an interstate dog-fighting ring.

Also working against a Steelers-Vick union was the fact that a lawsuit filed against Ben Roethlisberger in Lake Tahoe, Nev., alleging he raped a woman, surfaced just before the Steelers were to open their 2009 training camp.

At that point, the Steelers didn’t need any more negative publicity by bringing in Vick.

Now, three years later, Vick and the Eagles meet Roethlisberger’s Steelers in a battle of quarterbacks with checkered off-field pasts.

 


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