Despite the lukewarm words, the emotional heat will amp up at kickoff. The bad blood is real between these rust-belt franchises.
Head referee for Sunday's tilt, Pete Morelli, will be on high alert at the start of the contest, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport said on NFL GameDay Morning.
In an interview with Rapoport, vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said refereeing crews are given videos of each team, generally tendencies and techniques the team employs so refs have an idea what to look for.
"Game control is a significant part of that," Blandino said. "Anything we can do to help them officiate the game. Anytime it's a division game, we always remind them of that. These teams have a familiarity, these games tend to be more aggressive and can have that potential. We talk about these things with the referees every week, and my conversation with Pete Morelli was no different. Just making sure he's aware, aware of the history."
Blandino said no special attention is being given the Steelers-Bengals game than any other contest, but did admit that divisional games have an added level of emotion that can lead to skirmishes after the whistle.
"You don't want to overreact to anything, you don't want them going in with a mindset that's going to affect other areas. You just want that awareness," Blandino said. "I have a ton of respect and overall confident in Mike Tomlin and Marvin Lewis and they understand the situation and they will harp on, we're not going to have anything other than a really good, aggressive football game."
Expect Pete Morelli and his crew to be wary of any extracurricular early in the contest.
"When they say 'setting the tone,' what we mean is be a presence early," Blandino said. "What you'll see, early on the first couple snaps, you'll see everyone fired up, maybe there is some extra pushing and shoving, and you want the officials to come in ... everybody comes together at the end of a play, we call it an accordion. You want them to be a presence around the pile, that's when things can happen. It's about setting the tone, a visual deterrent for players.
"Take it a step further, if the opportunity arises to the level of unnecessary roughness early, you don't want to miss that opportunity. If we do miss it, you can send a message to players that we're going to let this go. That's when you get into trouble early on. You're not making it up. But you can't miss the opportunity if it's there."