Nothing like drama in the ’Burgh

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers are very good at what they do, which is why they’re one of four teams sitting out this playoff weekend with a first-round bye.

They’re good at something else, too — keeping secrets.

When they released James Harrison shortly before they left for their Dec. 25 game in Houston, it seemed like a cold and heartless move.

Was that any way to treat the team’s all-time leader in sacks, the man who contributed the second greatest play in franchise history, the one whose ferocity typified the aggressive defensive play that made the Steelers a consistent contender?

It turned out those attributes were just part of Harrison’s Steelers legacy.

Shortly after he signed with New England, teammates were happy to talk about the other side.

There was the Harrison who moped as his playing time declined, the one who was inattentive during meetings and the guy who left the stadium and went home when he found out he wasn’t suiting up for the game.

They portrayed him as selfish, and it didn’t take much prompting to get the information out of them.

Who knew?

There have been rumblings that the relationship between Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley is on the rocks again.

Both sides downplay any problems, but there was a minor adjustment in the assignment of assistant coaches on game day.

Randy Fichtner, the quarterback coach, moved from the booth down to the sideline. He is said to be a necessary buffer between Haley and Roethlisberger. By the way, Roethlisberger’s play has improved considerably since this adjustment was made.

It’s no contest when it comes to a battle of wills between a star quarterback and the offensive coordinator. Every team has an offensive coordinator. Fewer than a dozen have a star quarterback.

Then there’s the matter of how Haley spent his New Year’s Eve after the Steelers closed the regular season by beating the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field.

The Steelers reported that he had a hip injury. Haley said he encountered a “situation” in a bar near the stadium.

That sounds like there may have been some sort of physical confrontation, but who knows?

This much is certain: If you’re a high profile person, spend your leisure time in places where management knows you and makes an effort to keep the mingling with outsiders to a minimum.

That helps the famous people avoid “situations.”

What a deal

Happy new year, Jon Gruden.

Reports suggest that Gruden has a 10-year, $100 million deal to coach the Oakland Raiders.

Gruden is 54, so this should set him up for a nice retirement. He has stayed close to the game by working in television and waiting for the best offer. It would appear he’s found it.

How outrageous is a 10-year contract? In the history of the Raiders (founded in 1960), no coach has lasted 10 seasons. Tom Flores came the closest by serving for nine years.

The only people nearly as happy as Gruden about this deal are Monday Night Football viewers, who have been trying to decipher his odd brand of coachspeak on the ESPN broadcasts.

SUBHEAD: Time to get going

The Penguins are past the halfway point of the regular season, so “Stanley Cup hangover” isn’t a very good explanation for their inconsistent play.

The bye week is here, so maybe part of that can be devoted to honest self-evaluation and a plan for the rest of the way.

Based on his history, GM Jim Rutherford won’t be inclined to sit back and wait for things to fix themselves.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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