ORLANDO, Fla., 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.