The Steelers have a well-documented history with the Bengals, with linebacker Vontaze Burfict in particular.
And while they expect it to get contentious again on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field, they're also expressing respect for Cincinnati in advance of the resumption of hostilities.
"I think he's a very good player as far as his play on the field," Steelers guard Ramon Foster said of Burfict. "When he came back is when they started winning, him and 'Pac-Man' (cornerback Adam Jones).
"Say what we want to about them, but they are the lifeblood of that team."
The Bengals are 2-0 since Burfict returned from a three-game suspension.
Jones was suspended for Cincinnati's regular-season opener.
Foster compared Burfict to several Steelers teammates respected for their football savvy.
"If there's a leader on that defense it's him," Foster continued. "If there's anything he knows, it's football. He knows football and he knows it well, that's him.
"(Center) Maurkice (Pouncey) is that way, (inside linebacker Ryan) Shazier's that way, 'Vinny' (inside linebacker Vince Williams) knows football, (defensive end) Cam (Heyward) knows football, (quarterback) Ben (Roethlisberger) knows football. You have those type of guys, if they don't know anything else they've been knowing football since they were five years old, they get it. (Outside linebacker) T.J. (Watt) will be a guy, once he gets more age on him, that knows football. 'Dirty Red' (inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich), you have those type of guys, and Burfict is that type of guy as far as knowing what and how they need to go about their work, that's him."
Added guard David DeCastro, "They really are a good team. Their defense is playing really well. They have some great players."
DeCastro considers Burfict one of them.
"It doesn't matter what you say about him, how you feel about him," DeCastro said. "It's part of the game, you gotta play him.
"It is what it is, you just have to go play."
Running back Le'Veon Bell had his 2015 season ended in November on a hit by Burfict that resulted in a knee injury.
Bell subsequently said in the spring of 2016 that he thought Burfict had been trying to hurt him.
"Not just him, the Bengals were," Bell said today.
He said he'd "protect himself" on Sunday.
Bell also called Burfict "a great football player.
"That's how rivalries go," he said. "We're going to try our best to go out there and play clean football and play everything within the guidelines. That's what we have to do, go out there and play football. We're going to beat them like that.
"Obviously, Bengals and Steelers is always going to be nitty gritty. It's football, it's a little smack talk, maybe some plays on one side or another side where the other team may think it's dirty or uncalled for. But it's football, it's a rivalry game and that's expected."
Foster vowed to be on his best behavior.
"I told my wife I'm not getting a fine, no way I'm getting a fine this week, no penalties, nothing," he said. "I want to win this game, start 3-0 in the AFC North and continue on our conquest for a first-round bye."