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“Since I’ve been here, we feel like we’re always going to be in the hunt for the Super Bowl,” injured tackle Max Starks said.

Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann and Co. set the standard when they won four Super Bowl titles in a six-year span in the late 1970s. There were some down times in the 80s and 90s, though Neil O’Donnell led the Steelers to the 1996 Super Bowl — a loss to Dallas.

After a 26-year drought, Roethlisberger helped the Steelers earn one for the thumb in February 2006. The Steelers added a record sixth title to their trophy case two years ago. Now, they’re going for No. 7.

“Expectations are sky high in this city dating back to the 70s when those guys won four Super Bowls,” cornerback Ike Taylor said. “We got Pitt basketball playing good ball and I jumped on the Penguins bandwagon a few years ago. Hopefully we can get the Pirates going sooner or later.”

That’s not likely.

The Pirates are coming off a record-setting 18th consecutive losing, and their chances of contending wouldn’t be any worse if Taylor and eight Steelers were penciled into the lineup every day.

Good thing fans here have the Steelers, Penguins and Panthers to cheer. About a dozen people lined up outside the Steelers practice facility Thursday, braving the cold, snowy weather in hopes that a player or two would sign an autograph.

“We love our Steelers,” said Arlene Hopson, a student at Pitt. “The Packers don’t stand a chance next week.”

Hoke signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of Brigham Young in 2001. He grew up in California, but was familiar with the Steelers tradition before he joined the team. Then he got a dose of their fans.

“I knew the history, but once I got here and spent more time here, you start to realize how important this organization is to this area and how much you are loved and what kind of responsibility that brings,” Hoke said.