Now the Los Angeles Rams know how Custer must have felt at the Little Big Horn, how Barry Goldwater felt before the 1964 presidential election, how Joan of Arc felt before the trial.

Hardly anyone is giving the Rams a chance against the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers in the Sunday extravaganza they call Super Bowl 14, starting at 6 P.M. (EST, WDVM-TV-9). The winners will earn $18,000 a man, the loser $9,000.

The oddsmakers, the major villains in this week's Ram torment, say Pittsburgh is a 10- to 11-point favorite to make the bigger buck, the biggest spread since Minnesota was an 11-point pick over Kansas City in 1970.

Members of the media have portrayed Pittsburgh as some inpregnable dynasty that will brush off Los Angeles with a simple flex of its mighty muscle.

And even Ram fans, while more excited about their team than at any other point this season, seem ready to accept a Pittsburgh triumph by the end of this game before a record crowd of 104,000 in the Rose Bowl.

Los Angeles Coach Ray Malavasi bravely said his team isn't nearly as bad as has been portrayed, nor are the Steelers as formidable. Cut out the adjectives, he said, "and the game will be a lot closer than anyone expects."

Maybe so. Maybe Terry Bradshaw will misplace his passing touch, Franco Harris will forget how to run, Joe Greene will lose his tackling ability and Lynn Swann will leave his hands at home.

But if those Steeler stars produce their usual outstanding games and if Pittsburgh, as Coach Chuck Noll believes, is properly motivated to win an unprecedented fourth Super Bowl, the Rams could be in for an extremely uncomfortable afternoon.

Of course, big spreads and predictions of lopsided games mean absolutley nothing. The Chiefs beat Minnesota in the 1970 affair and the Jets, 17-point underdogs, upset Baltimore in 1969.

But neither Minnesota nor Baltimore were in a class with Noll's Steelers. His team is not perfect, especially on days when the clever Bradshaw is not in proper tune, but its depth, big-game experience and fine balance between offense and defense present difficult obstacles.

The Rams will counter with a quality defense built around veterans Jack and Jim Youngblood, Fred Dryer and Jack Reynolds. Their major question revolves around an offense directed by inexperienced quarterback Vince Ferragamo and ignited by fumble-prone Wendell Tyler.

If the game should turn on big plays, as both coaches have predicted, it would seem Los Angeles has the greater potential to help out its opponent with mistakes.

Ferragamo becomes confused when pressured and when opponents mix up their coverages, both of which the Steelers do regularly. And Tyler hardly ever goes through a game without losing the ball at least once inside the opponents' 20. And most teams don't hit like the Steelers.

In contrast, when was the last time anybody saw Harris do poorly in a playoff game? Or Bradshaw perform at anytime but at a superior level?

This has been a week of joy for the Pittsburgh quarterback. After three Super Bowl triumphs, he has erased any doubt about his ability. No one questions his intelligence or his fire or his stability in pressure games. He has been laughing and joking and carrying himself with the demeanor of a man aware he has finally arrived.

"We want this game, just like we've wanted the others," Bradshaw said. "It's different, because now we are used to the Super Bowl and what it means so it's more business than before.

"But that doesn't mean we aren't motivated. No one has won four before. We respect Los Angeles and we expect a good game. But we have confidence in our own ability."

There are some things that keep those who are sure the real Super Bowl was played two weeks ago, when Pittsburgh knocked off Houston in the AFC championship.

The Rams play well on natural grass -- the Rose Bowl's turf -- while the Steelers supposedly are much stronger when performing on an artifical surface.

The Rams has beaten Pittsburgh the last three times the teams have met, including a 10-7 triumph in the Los Angeles Coliseum last year in which Pittsburgh gained only 59 yards rushing and 75 total yards.

The Rams have all the emotional and motivational reasons known to the football world pushing them to play well, which can make teams perform above their normal levels.

"When you get to the top of the hill," said Malvasi, "you want to knock the king off his throne. We won't be satisfied just because we got this far. We won't be happy with anything if we don't win the game."

And the Rams are convinced they will win. They think their offensive line will neutralize Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain and they think their pride-and-joy defensive unit, coached by former Steeler assistant Bud Cason, will clamp down on Bradshaw.

"I think we can control the ball on them with our offensive line," said Ram guard Dennis Harrah, who says the Rams might bar reporters from their locker room after the game if they win. "We've got the best offensive line in football."

Whether that line is good enough to get the ball into the end zone is another question. Los Angeles couldn't score a touchdown against Tampa Bay despite three trips inside the Buc 10, and field goals alone probably won't be enough to win.

If the Rams can run on Pittsburgh, that might have a decisive effect on the game. Only Earl Campbell has gained more than 100 yards against the Steelers this season: otherwise, no opponent could avoid going to the air more than they had planned.

"If L.A. has to pass, they have problems," said Steeler middle linebacker Jack Lambert. Lambert and friends would love a chance to feast on a pass-happy Ferragamo, who will be starting only his seventh pro game after replacing the injured Pat Haden.

Bradshaw won't have an easy time, either, with the Rams' defense, especially now that cornerbacks Pat Thomas and Rod Perry are healthy after fighting injuries most of the year.

In what has become standard strategy, Los Angeles will have to double-team receivers Swann and John Stallworth to stay in the game, even though both Perry and Thomas are classy defenders. That means the Rams' veteran linebacking corps of Reynolds, Jim Youngblood and Bob Brudzinski will be pressed to cover Steeler running backs, all of whom are fine pass catchers.

The other Youngblood, Jack, is still playing on a fractured leg and hardly will be 100 percent. His pass rush is needed to force Bradshaw to hurry his throws, which is when he usually makes his major mistakes.

"We got here on defense," said Dryer, the off-beat philosopher whose only other Super Bowl appearance was as a self-appointed reporter dressed in 1920's grab a few years ago. "No one seems to remember that this has always been a great defense, a defense that shut people down before. Why should it be different in this one?"