PITTSBURGH (AP) -- When Terry Bradshaw visited the Minnesota Vikings recently, he strode over to kicker Gary Anderson's locker and began chatting amicably.
A few inquisitive teammates later asked Anderson how he knew Bradshaw, the Hall of Fame quarterback, but a man they knew mostly for being a face on their TV screen.
"I was a teammate of his," Anderson said, prompting incredulous looks from players who couldn't believe he played with someone, well, so old.
Now, Anderson's old team -- and Bradshaw's, too -- could be on the verge of something it hasn't done since Anderson and Bradshaw were Pittsburgh teammates way back in 1983.
If the Steelers (8-2) beat Anderson's Vikings (4-6) Sunday, they will be 9-2 for the first time since 1983 -- coincidentally, Bradshaw's last in the league.
"Probably my fondest memory there was just the initial experience of coming right out of college and being there with guys like Jack Lambert, Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris," said Anderson, the only former Steelers player still active who played with those Hall of Famers. "They are some of the greatest players who have ever played the game."
These surprising Steelers, tied with Oakland, St. Louis, San Francisco and Chicago for the NFL's best record, aren't yet in the league with those Steelers.
But with each passing victory, and they have won eight of nine, the Steelers come closer to making the playoffs for the first time since 1997. And to getting home field for at least the first round of the playoffs. And to shedding the can't-turn-the-corner image of a team that went 21-26 the previous three seasons.
For weeks now, the Steelers have motivated themselves by saying others in the league underestimate their ability and don't consider them a marquee team. With the Vikings, just such a team a year ago before backsliding this season, coming to town, the Steelers are reciting that familiar theme again.
"We want to be a team that's compared to the elite teams in the league. If we keep playing like this, keep having the drive and desire, hopefully we can be compared to the great teams," safety Lee Flowers said.
Actually, they already are drawing such comparisons.
The Vikings say the Steelers are one of the NFL's most confounding teams to prepare for, and not only because they still play the 3-4 defense, a virtual relic around the league. Their hybrid offense -- a whole lot of Jerome Bettis mixed in with Kordell Stewart's running and throwing -- is not easily replicated in practice.
"As much hitting as we do, there is nobody in the NFL who is really like him," Vikings linebacker Jim Nelson said of Bettis, who needs nine yards for his sixth straight 1,000-yard season.
Stewart's markedly improved play -- he has thrown for 200 or more yards in four of five games -- has made the offense far more versatile than earlier in the season. Still, for all they could accomplish with another victory or two, the Steelers said the biggest mistake they can make is relaxing after going 4-1 in a five-game stretch against AFC Central opponents.
The Vikings may be on the verge of playoff elimination, with an 0-4 road record, four more road games and a banged-up quarterback in Duante Culpepper. No matter, Steelers cornerback Dewayne Washington, a former Viking, said Minnesota is scary for two reasons.
Randy Moss. Cris Carter.
"Talent. Talent. Talent," Washington said. "Those guys have so much talent; I know, because I had to cover Cris Carter in practice."
Moss's touchdown production is down. He has six touchdown catches, compared to 43 in his first three seasons combined. But he had three against the Giants two weeks ago.
Also, Moss might have some extra motivation as friends and family members from southern West Virginia make the four-hour trek to Pittsburgh to watch him play.
"Randy Moss is coming to town, and that's all we need to know," Flowers said. "I mean, Randy Moss, in the future, will probably be what Michael Jordan was to basketball."
Steelers coach Bill Cowher doesn't envision a letdown for a team that has done no letting up for weeks now.
"We can't lose that edge," he said. "The last thing we can do now with six games left is take a deep breath and say, 'Wow.' "
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