Wednesday's Rumble

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> Steelers safety Lee Flowers and Tampa Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp tried to take the high road Wednesday in regards to Flowers' statements last year that the Buccaneers were paper champions".

But after attempting to downplay the issue at first, Sapp and Flowers lowered their guns on each other as the Steelers (8-5-1) prepared to play the Bucs (11-3) at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium Monday night.

Said Sapp about Flowers, He doesn't even have any credentials to say anything, so I am wondering where this is coming from. You would never know the man unless you get in front of a television and they put his name under his face.

Replied Flowers, This is the same guy who was talking about (Giants defensive end Michael) Strahan's (sack) record. This is the same guy who for eight years has been saying he's going to break the sack record. This is same guy who's sitting with six sacks. I damn near got six sacks myself. That's not saying anything.

Actually, Sapp has 7.5 sacks this season and Flowers has four, but the message was clear: Let the game inside the game begin.

In a game loaded with players who love to trash talk, Flowers and Sapp are two of the biggest mouths going. And with each other clearly in the other's sights, the trash piled up faster than if there had been a sanitation strike.

Said Sapp, a former Miami University star, Listen man, Lee Flowers is from Georgia. (We) Florida boys walk around with chips on their shoulders all the time. We talk more trash than anybody.

Apparently, they talk so much they don't have time to do their homework, according to Flowers. That's the problem right there. I'm not from Georgia, I'm from South Carolina. He needs to do his homework if he's going to talk about somebody. I went to school at Georgia Tech. Last time I checked, nobody gets a degree from Miami anyway.

Their differences aside, both Sapp and Flowers agreed about one thing: Monday night's game is an important one for both the Steelers, who lead the AFC North, and the Bucs, who are ahead of the pack in the NFC South.

The victor of Monday night's game would clinch their division title, while a tie would clinch for both teams. A Steelers loss, however, would force them to beat Baltimore in their regular-season finale to clinch a playoff spot.

There will be a box of hats and shirts on their sideline and a box of hats and shirts on our sideline, said Sapp, referring to the hats and shirts teams give to their players for winning a title.Who wants to open their box?

Said Flowers, I think (Tampa Bay) is a good team. I think their record reflects that. I'm not trying to calm this down. Monday night is Monday night. There's no reason to talk trash during the week because it is what it is, a prime time game for both teams. There's a lot on the line for both teams.

Odds and End Zones -

Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden said quarterback Brad Johnson is questionable for Monday's game with a lower back contusion. Gruden said if Johnson is unable to play, Tampa Bay would start Shaun King. ... Running backs Jerome Bettis and Amos Zereoue, punter Josh Miller, receiver Hines Ward, and linebacker Kendrell Bell did not practice Wednesday for the Steelers. Of those five, Miller and Zereoue are questionable to play at Tampa. The others are probable.

--Dale Lolley


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