Assuming that the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to be an AFC playoff team this season -- it would be foolish to assume they're not going to be -- this is a chance for the Eagles to end a streak that has endured during coach Andy Reid's tenure as the head coach.
The Eagles have lost 14 straight games to AFC playoff teams, a dubious streak that includes their Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots in 2005. What's worse is that many of those games haven't even been close. The Eagles have been outscored 431-210 in the 14 losses. Nine of them have been by double digits and eight were by 21 points or more.
The last time the Eagles beat an AFC playoff team was Nov. 23, 1997, when they were aided by a controversial call in a 23-20 victory at Veterans Stadium.
Reid's teams are 0-13 against AFC playoff teams, including a 27-3 loss to Pittsburgh in 2004.
By contrast, the Steelers are 13-2 in their last 15 games against NFC opponents. Pittsburgh backup quarterback Charlie Batch said he thinks it is the Steelers' 3-4 defense that gives NFC teams so much trouble.
"It's a much different style of 3-4," Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said before practice today. "They're more penetrating and maybe more aggressive scheme wise. Forty-three (Troy Polamalu) is a terrific player. That thing is built around a lot of guys because they have a lot of really good players, but 43 is all over the field and he's a big cog in that defense. They move around much, much more than a typical 3-4 team."
Perhaps the worse news for the Eagles is that they are probably going to have to block the Steelers' 3-4 scheme without Pro Bowl guard Shawn Andrews, who missed practice for the second straight day because of lower back spasms. It does not appear as if Andrews will play, leaving Max Jean-Gilles starting at right guard. Jean-Gilles played the second half Monday night against Dallas.
The Eagles have also practiced without center Jamaal Jackson the last two days. He has been excused for personal reasons and is expected to miss practice again today, but be ready for Sunday's game.