The 2010 season and playoffs, however, have written their own version of history, with a common theme: Anything can happen.
The Jets had never won in Pittsburgh before edging the Steelers 22-17 in December.
They also humbled Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the playoffs and in consecutive weeks.
In a season when both conference title games feature No. 2 seeds and against No. 6s, it's foolish to discount the Jets in Sunday night's AFC title game.
A franchise that validated the AFL's talents by winning the Super Bowl in 1969 has not been back since. The Jets played for the conference title in 1982, 1998 and last year. They hadn't even won postseason games in consecutive years until doing so last season and this.
"It's been a long time for our fans and our franchise," said defensive end Shaun Ellis, a first-round pick in 2000 and the current player with the longest Jets career. "So for us to be able to get to that point -- and not just get there, but get there and win it --would be huge for us.
Naturally, the Steelers say otherwise. Their trips to the AFC championship games have been frequent: this is No. 15 for Pittsburgh, with a 7-7 split thus far.
As for Super Bowls, no franchise owns more than Pittsburgh's six Lombardi Trophies. The Steelers have won it twice in the past six years, after the 2005 and 2008 seasons.
"We have one standard," coach Mike Tomlin said. "That standard is winning."
Hines Ward has lived up to that standard for 13 seasons, easily the most as a Steeler on the current roster.
"People try to compare this team to the Super Bowl teams we played on, but every team is different," Ward said. "We've got a lot of young guys and a lot of battle-tested guys who have been there.
"What this team has that impresses me is the resiliency. To do it the way we have done it, not having Ben (Roethlisberger) for four games (while he was suspended), missing Troy (Polamalu) for two or three games, our offensive line getting hurt. It's been remarkable to see the guys fill in."
The Jets aren't likely to be swayed by the Steelers' resume of success. They weren't intimidated by facing the Colts in Indy or the Patriots in Foxborough -- not even with the fresh memory of being pummeled 45-3 at Gillette Stadium five weeks earlier.