Steelers, Buccaneers in key NFL clash
ORLANDO, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers host Pittsburgh Monday night, with playoff positioning on the line for both teams.
Even before the game, there already is a war of words, specifically between Steelers defensive back Lee Flowers and Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp.
Flowers verbally blasted the Buccaneers after the Steelers posted a 17-10 win at Tampa last season. Pittsburgh dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage, rushing for 220 yards and tying a team record by sacking Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson 10 times.
Flowers, incensed by what he perceived as a lack of respect from the Bucs, pulled no punches when assessing how it felt to beat a team with nine Pro Bowl players.
"They talk so much, and they go to the Pro Bowl because they talk," Flowers said. "They ain't nothing but paper champions. That's all they are, and that's all they're ever going to be."
The Bucs could not handle Steelers outside linebacker Joey Porter, who had four of the 10 sacks. Defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen had a career-high three sacks.
"Tell Brad Johnson he needs to give Joey Porter some of his money," Flowers said. "Half of his salary needs to go to Joey Porter."
When asked if he was worried his comments might come back to haunt him if the teams meet again, Flowers didn't flinch.
"I hope we do see these guys again," he said. "This could be newspaper clippings for a month, two months or whatever. It might make them play better."
Tampa Bay has already earned a playoff berth for the fourth straight year, and clinched the NFC South title when the New Orleans Saints lost to Cincinnati on Sunday. It was the third consecutive division title for Tampa Bay Coach Jon Gruden, who won the AFC West each of the last two years with the Oakland Raiders.
"I am still focused on the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it is a great accomplishment to win the first NFC South title," Gruden said.
The Bucs also have their eyes on home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. They trail Philadelphia (12-3) and Green Bay (12-3) for the best NFC record.
"We're very grateful to win the NFC South, but at the same time, obviously, our goal is on securing homefield advantage," said Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks. "We got into the playoffs, won the division, and now we can focus on homefield advantage."
The Steelers have a one game lead over Cleveland in the AFC North and can clinch their seventh division title in 11 years under Coach Bill Cowher with a win.
Keyshawn Johnson had 10 catches for 159 yards in last year's loss to Pittsburgh, but Tampa Bay's vaunted defense was worn down by Jerome Bettis, who rushed for 143 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown run.
This year, the Bucs have yielded a league-low 179 points, or an average of 12.8 per game, while the Steelers have allowed 307 points, an average of 22 per game.
Pittsburgh leads the series, 5-1.
Jansen gets long-term deal from Redskins
ASHBURN, Va., Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Offensive tackle John Jansen of Washington has signed a six-year, $25 million contract extension.
Jansen, who was set to become a free agent at year's end, has played every game since the Redskins made him a second-round pick in 1999 out of Michigan. The Washington Times reported he will receive a signing bonus of $8 million, and $13 million over the first three years of the deal.
Jansen said he decided to stay with the Redskins because he feels the team has a bright future.
"I got to thinking about all the young guys on this team," he said. "We have a core of young guys who are excellent players. If we can build around that and get guys to stay around, instead of having a big changeover every year, it's really going to make a big difference. And hopefully we'll see that difference next year."
The Times also reported that Jansen's cap figure next year will be slightly less than $1.8 million, a savings of about $2.7 million from the projected transition figure.
"I got to thinking about the guys we have on this team," Jansen said. "We have a young quarterback who's coming along. Chris Samuels is young in his career, and I'm proud to be part of that tandem. Champ Bailey, LaVar Arrington -- we have a core of young players we can build around."
The Redskins now can focus on re-signing defensive tackle Darryl Gardner, the team's Player of the Year, who also can become a free agent when the season ends.
Clemson tries to contain Texas Tech
ORLANDO, Fl., Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Record-setting quarterback Cliff Kingsbury leads Texas Tech against Clemson Monday night in the Tangerine Bowl at Orlando.
Kingsbury holds seven NCAA records, and is fourth on the all-time passing yards list with 12,054. This season, he completed 447-of-669 passes for 4,642 yards and 42 touchdowns in leading the Red Raiders to an 8-5 record.
The only thing left for him is a win in a bowl game. The Red Raiders suffered a 40-27 loss to East Carolina in the 2000 Galleryfurniture.com Bowl, and a 19-16 setback to Iowa in last year's Alamo Bowl.
He will try to get his first postseason win against a Clemson club that tied for fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Kingsbury also is looking to bounce back from a rough outing in the Raiders' regular season finale against Oklahoma. With a berth in the Big 12 championship game on the line, he completed just 15-of-35 passes for a season-low 187 yards and was sacked six times in a 60-15 rout by the Sooners.
The week before, he passed for six touchdowns and a Big 12 record 473 yards in a 42-38 upset of Texas.
Texas Tech is seeking its first bowl victory since posting a 55-41 win over Air Force in the 1995 Cooper Bowl, also the last time the Red Raiders won nine games in a season.
Texas Tech is making its 25th bowl appearance, but is just 5-18-1 in the postseason.
Clemson (7-5) ranks 17th in the nation against the pass, allowing only 175 yards per game.
The Tigers have two players ranked in the top 15 in interceptions. Justin Miller is seventh with seven, and Brian Mance 15th with six.
Clemson is the only team in the country to have two players with at least six picks.
The Tigers could only split their first eight games, but went 3-1 down the stretch under freshman quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who took over for the struggling Willie Simmons.
Whitehurst completed 103-of-166 passes for 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns.
Clemson played in the Humanitarian Bowl last season, beating Louisiana Tech, 49-24.
The two schools are meeting for the first time on the gridiron.
Sixers claim Satterfield
PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- The Philadelphia 76ers Monday claimed guard Kenny Satterfield off waivers.
Satterfield averaged 5.6 points and 2.4 assists in 22 games before being waived by the Denver Nuggets last Wednesday. The 6-2 Satterfield was selected by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the 2001 draft, but was traded to Denver before the season.
As a rookie, Satterfield, 21, appeared in just 36 games and averaged 5.3 points and 3.0 assists per contest.
Philadelphia (18-10) last week acquired power forward Kenny Thomas from the Houston Rockets in a three-team deal that included Denver.
Anderson gets one-year deal from Indians
CLEVELAND, Dec. 23 (UPI) --Lefthander Brian Anderson Monday signed a one-year contract with the Cleveland Indians.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
In five seasons in Arizona, the native of Geneva, Ohio, went 6-11 with a 4.79 ERA in 35 appearances with the Diamondbacks last season before breaking his foot in a game against Colorado on Sept. 21.
He was the second overall pick in the 1997 expansion draft by the Diamondbacks and was a member of their 2001 World Series championship team.
"We are excited to bring Brian Anderson back to the Indians' organization," said Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro. "He has tremendous work ethic and character, and will be a valuable member of our pitching staff in terms of performance and leadership."
Anderson, 30, spent 1996 and '97 in the Indians' organization, compiling a 7-3 record with a 4.80 ERA in 18 appearances. He had a save in Game Four of the 1997 World Series against Florida.
Anderson also has pitched in the Anaheim organization. He owns a career record of 61-58 with a 4.72 ERA in 218 games.
Cleveland also signed catcher A.J. Hinch to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. Hinch batted .249 with seven home runs and 27 RBI in 72 games with the Kansas City Royals last season.
Hinch, 28, was a highly-touted prospect when he batted .249 with nine homers and 35 games in 120 games with the Oakland Athletics in 1998.
Astros give Fernandez minor league deal
HOUSTON, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- The Houston Astros have signed veteran righthander Jared Fernandez to a minor league contract.
Fernandez, 30, a knuckleball specialist, made a big splash in July, when he got his first major league victory. Ironically, he beat the Astros while pitching for Cincinnati.
In the Reds' 8-3 win, Fernandez walked two and fanned eight over seven innings, throwing 126 pitches, including more than 100 knuckleballs.
"That's the best knuckleballer I've ever faced, because he controlled it," Astros slugger Lance Berkman said afterwards according to MLB.com, baseball's official website. "Most knuckleballers just throw it toward the middle of the plate and hope it moves. He was throwing the ball in and out with command and that makes it even more difficult, when a guy's able to throw his knuckleball to either side of the plate."
Fernandez's win in Houston ended up being his lone Major League victory. He split the 2002 season between Cincinnati and Triple-A Louisville, compiling a big-league record of 1-4 with a 4.43 ERA over 19 games, including 10 starts. At Louisville, he was 12-5 with a 3.93 ERA.
Cincinnati released Fernandez on Dec. 15, ending his two-year tenure with the Reds organization.