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Pittsburgh At Tampa Bay: Super Bowl Preview?

(Sports Network) - Go ahead and check.

In all the previews written for all the media outlets by all the football analysts in the world, not one will use the following phrase when describing this Sunday's game at Raymond James Stadium:

Super Bowl preview.

But you know what? Maybe they should.

After all, out of the 16 NFL games to be played in 13 states at new and old venues built for billions of dollars, only one - the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - will have the ingredients usually combined this time of year to create that breathlessly hyperbolic pre-February delicacy.

A pair of undefeated teams ... one from each conference.

No other matchup - not Jets-Dolphins, not Bears-Packers, not Falcons-Saints, not Texans-Cowboys - includes such a tasty contrast, in spite of the fact that it'll be buried beneath Bengals-Panthers, Browns-Ravens, Titans-Giants and Bills-Patriots on the 1 p.m. CBS schedule.

In fact, it's Gus Johnson and Steve Tasker getting the call for the network.

Which begs the question ... where's the justice, Cadillac Williams?

"We've come a long way as a team just knowing we're 2-0, but nobody is yelling in the locker room," the Bucs running back said. "It is a sweet start, but the thing I love is that I remember us losing to Dallas last year in the first week and everyone was excited like we won the game because we had more than 400 yards of offense. Stats don't mean nothing in this league.

"Now we're 2-0 and everyone is telling each other, �Don't get carried away - it's a long season.'"

In all seriousness, and in spite of the 2-0 record, it may be only the inhabitants of that Tampa Bay fraternity who believe the Bucs truly have the horses to make a run at recent NFC South tradition - which has seen the division's last-place team rebound to win it in six of seven seasons, with the only exception being the 2008 Atlanta Falcons.

Atlanta did make those playoffs, however, bouncing back to 11-5 after a 4-12 mark in 2007.

The Bucs haven't been 2-0 since winning the division in 2005, after going 5-11 a year earlier.

Coach Raheem Morris and his Buccaneers were 3-13 last season.

"It's no secret, we've been a lot better since Raheem's taken over and I think we're going to keep getting better," middle linebacker Barrett Ruud said of the defense. "We were far from where we wanted to play (Sunday, in a 20-7 defeat of Carolina) and that's kind of refreshing. We're not playing our best football and we're still getting wins."

Meanwhile, the Steelers enter the week as the more pedigreed unbeaten.

Just two years removed from a sixth Super Bowl title, Pittsburgh missed the playoffs with a respectable 9-7 record last season and survived to this September amid an offseason filled with strife courtesy of quarterback-in-exile Ben Roethlisberger - who'll not rejoin the team until Week 5.

In his place until then is the QB trident of Dennis Dixon, Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch, a crowd reduced to two when Dixon sustained a knee injury against Tennessee Sunday that will keep him out against the Bucs.

Leftwich was re-signed Monday after being released last week in a procedural move while he waited for an injury of his own to heal, and Batch finished the Titans game after Dixon left and was 5-of-11 for 25 yards in a Steelers' 19-11 win that featured four field goals and a kick return TD.

Batch will start Sunday, when a win will get Pittsburgh to 3-0 for the first time since 2007.

"Those are the kinds of plays that need to be made," coach Mike Tomlin said. "Competitive plays, yes. Combative plays, yes. But those are the plays you have to make for a quarterback, particularly one that hadn't played a bunch or is in the backup situation. We weren't able to do that (against Tennessee) and that is why we weren't able to ring the scoreboard up by sevens."

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.