Don’t expect Steelers to be saved by Le’Veon Bell

By BRANDON WOLFE | September 27, 2018

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BROOK WARD/ CC BY-NC 2.0 Le'Veon Bell turns down five-year contract with Pittsburgh Steelers.

Le’Veon Bell may be the best running back in the NFL as of this moment. He also may be the most selfish running back in the NFL as of this moment.

Being from Pittsburgh, one may think I’d be biased in Bell’s favor, but I’m not. I disagree completely with the All-Pro running back who shook his head at $14.5 million and has elected instead to use his time riding jet skis and going to album release parties for the rap career that he apparently has. 

The former Michigan State University Spartan turned down a five-year, $70 million deal from the Steelers that was reportedly slated to pay him $15 million a year and included $33 million guaranteed. Bell decided to forgo the Steelers offer, as well as the franchise tender, which would have paid him $14.55 million this year. 

Because he decided to not sign the tender and stay at home rather than report to the team, every game that the 26-year-old misses, he gives up $855,529.

$855,529. 

That’s 214,418 Big Macs.

That’s 6.87 Mercedes G-Wagens.

That’s 90 seats at the 50-yard line for Super Bowl LIII.

That’s four students having full-ride scholarships to this school.

That’s more than James Conner, the running back replacing Bell in his absence, makes in a season.

And that’s every week he misses. As of this writing, he’s missed three games and has missed out on $2,566,587.

Why is he doing this?

Because he wants to prove a point. He wants to receive a king’s ransom for the impact he has had on the Steelers organization.

It’s undeniable, even by those who see him as wrong, that Bell has been nothing short of electric. After his first five seasons in the NFL, he was ranked No. 1 in the League’s history in average all-purpose yards per game, a consequence of his abilities as both a running back and a receiver. He is seen throughout the nation as a once-in-a-generation type talent and has helped Pittsburgh pick up three-straight AFC North titles.

But if he’s done all that, why don’t they just fork over the cash that he demands? After all, his production makes him worth it, right?

Wrong.

Bell has been suspended twice for violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, totaling five games, and he has missed 14 games due to various injuries over his career. While the lack of discipline that led to his suspensions is already a red flag, missing 17.5% of his regular season career because of injury only increases the risk associated with giving him a long-term contract.

This is especially the case for someone in a position that is known for players having short shelf lives. According to the NFL Players Association, the average running back has a career of just 3.3 years, due to the amount of punishment that players’ bodies withstand at the position.

All the while, Bell has been posting videos of himself looking fairly out of shape, riding jet skis and partying in Florida, as his team struggles to start the season. This has prompted many NFL analysts to question his maturity and his dedication to the game of football compared to the money.

Originally, it appeared as if the Steelers wouldn’t part ways with Bell, but just this past week, Pittsburgh announced that they would be open to trade negotiations for him. 

It’s more than likely that the Steelers will not be able to complete a trade for their star running back, since there will be very few teams willing to part ways with anything of much value for Bell, so he will likely enter free agency this year. However, the market value that he is expecting to receive will likely not be there, unless a team with plenty of cap space is willing to shell out an exorbitant amount of money on a running back who has a history of injury and disciplinary issues and has been criticized for lack of commitment to his team.

In this day and age, the running back, while important, is becoming increasingly less of a factor on offense. The quarterback will always be the most important, and teams will seek out a quarterback and build around him. 

They’ll get an offensive line to keep him upright and receivers to give him targets. The running back position is important as an outlet for most teams, a way to keep defenses honest before chucking the ball into the air 35 to 50 times per game.

While Le’Veon has performed on another level at running back, one has to remind themselves that he’s not doing it all by himself; he has plenty of help, between future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, one of the NFL’s top offensive lines and possibly the best wide receiver corps in the entire League. 

While I’m not saying that Le’Veon’s success is purely a result of the players surrounding him, I am saying that his success has been helped by it. 

Other teams will likely figure this out, which will only be further spurred on by the heated comments made by his Pittsburgh teammates regarding his absence. 

Either way, the point that Bell is trying to make is not a sound one. As the season continues and he weighs the options of returning to the locker room, he will be disappointed at his eventual outcome, as he continues to cause his own stock to fall via his misguided actions and behavior.

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