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Like it or not, Brown tells the truth

PITTSBURGH — At last, a Tweet from Antonio Brown that makes sense.

Asked for the root of his conflict with Ben Roethlisberger, Brown responded via Twitter:

“No conflict just a matter of respect! Mutual respect! He has a owner mentality like he can call out anybody including coaches. Players know but they can’t say anything about it otherwise they (sic) meal ticket gone. It’s a dirty game within a game.”

You can argue punctuation and syntax, but what he said is fundamentally true.

Star players who are hard to replace have considerable sway within any sports organization. That’s why LeBron James gets to choose teammates and coaches. It’s why Mario Lemieux was able to lead behind-the-scenes rebellions against coaches.

The Steelers had a record-setting offense in 2017, but that wasn’t enough to save the job of offensive coordinator Todd Haley. He was gone as soon as the season ended because Roethlisberger didn’t like working with him.

That’s the way things go in some circumstances.

It may or not may be a “dirty game,” but it’s definitely a game within a game.

It happens at different levels of sports organizations. Bill Cowher won a power struggle against Tom Donahoe, even though Donahoe, as general manager, was technically Cowher’s boss.

The same thing happened with the Pirates when they opted for Jim Leyland over GM Ted Simmons.

It all depends on who’s holding the best cards at the moment and who is viewed as the most difficult to replace.

New deal

Presumably the Steelers and Roethlisberger’s representatives are working on a new contract extension for the quarterback.

It will pay a lot of money. That’s a given. The issue is how much of the money is guaranteed. The Minnesota Vikings changed the rules last year when they made quarterback Kirk Cousins’ $84 million fully guaranteed.

NFL teams have handed out lucrative contracts, but the small print reveals only a certain percentage is guaranteed. Cousins’ deal shattered that policy.

Roethlisberger is soon to turn 37, and this is likely the last contract he’ll sign to play football.

He has millions of reasons to want to see the entire amount of his contract guaranteed.

Bad investment

When you write a guy a check for a $19 million guaranteed signing bonus, you kind of assume he’ll take your calls if anything comes up.

That was Art Rooney’s fundamental mistake with Antonio Brown.

Power outage

Here’s a scary stat: The Pirates’ most-used first and third baseman last season combined for 23 home runs. Third baseman Colin Moran hit 11, and Josh Bell had the other 12.

The 23 home runs would barely be acceptable for one corner infielder, much less the combined total of two in 1,048 plate appearances last season.

In fact, Bell hit 26 home runs in 620 plate appearances in 2017.

The Pirates have brought back Jung Ho Kang to try and boost the production from third base. It’s mostly all on Bell at first, and the team’s new batting coaches will be trying to rediscover his power stroke.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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