The Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals are already staging a war of words.
Bengals wideout Chad Johnson sent the initial salvos two days ago, when he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review "No one (in Pittsburgh) can cover me."
He went on to trash talk several members of the Steelers secondary, including cornerbacks Willie Williams and Deshea Townsend, and safeties Troy Polamalu and Chris Hope.
The Steelers on Thursday reacted to the brash wideout's verbiage -- some shrugging it off, others chuckling and a few shooting back.
Even coach Bill Cowher weighed in on Johnson's ripfest.
"I heard about it, I read about it," Cowher said. "I guess it's the dog days of Cincinnati right now. It's nice to know we're in the thoughts of many people's minds. We're flattered by that."
Johnson took some extra digs at free safety Hope, first forgetting his name and then saying, "You tell Hope I'm going to give him all elbows."
Hope cracked a smile when told of the "elbow" quote, claiming it was just Chad Johnson being, well, Chad Johnson.
"I think he's a great guy and a great player and he looks to have fun any way he can," Hope said. "You've got to respect that from him. Last year, he sent the Cleveland Browns Pepto Bismol (to cure the ills supposedly brought on by Johnson). So, this is just another one of his pranks. I appreciate him thinking about us so early."
Williams also perceived the comments as being lighthearted, though he did point out that there is always some truth in a joke. In this instance, perhaps Johnson, a Pro Bowl wideout who led the AFC in receiving yards last season, believes the Steelers secondary has weaknesses.
"And maybe it's not just him, maybe other wide receivers out there think that, too," Williams said. "I don't trash talk, but whatever he feels he wants to say, he can say."
The Steelers ranked fourth in the NFL in pass defense last season, allowing 177.2 yards per game. The unit is pretty much intact this season, sans Chad Scott. And, even though they didn't completely dominate Johnson -- he had nine catches for 134 yards with a touchdown in his two games against the Steelers -- they neutralized him, for the most part.
The Steelers face Johnson for the first time this season Oct. 23 in Cincinnati.
"If we would have been playing them this week, (his words) might have been taken more personally, but we're still in training camp and we have two to three weeks of practice against each other before we think about Cincinnati or anybody else," Hope said. "But he must think very highly of us to worry about us this early in the year."
When Steelers free safety Mike Logan got wind of Johnson's comments, he put a call in to Bengals defensive lineman and former West Virginia teammate John Thornton, letting him know that Johnson's words were causing a stir. Thornton explained that it was Chad Johnson being - you guessed it - Chad Johnson.
"That's marketing for him," Logan said of Johnson. "He's a great receiver. I know Chad personally and what he did right here was just to help sell papers. And even if he does feel that way, he wouldn't come out and say it like that."
Or, maybe he would.
"The key is not letting it get to your head," Williams said. "It's not getting to my head and I hope the guys aren't letting it get to them."
Neither Williams nor Steelers linebacker Clark Haggans subscribes to Johnson's trash-talking style.
"Coach Cowher always tells us you don't want to put bulletin-board material up," Haggans said. "And he can do that, and that's fine, but we still have to play football. That's where you can't just talk it, you have to walk it."
Johnson, who proclaimed he plans to send some of his opponents gifts again this year, said the Steelers will get Heinz Ketchup.
"Good," Williams said, "I'll put it on my French fries."