Another week goes by as Le’Veon Bell still has not signed his $14.5 million franchise tender with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Being as good as he is, one would think that his teammates and fans would be incredibly eager to get him back. This might have been the case when the Steelers started 1-2-1; but after two big wins against the Falcons and Bengals, and two consecutive 100-yard, 2-TD rushing games from James Conner, fans in Pittsburgh are much less reluctant to beg for Bell to come back.
Le’Veon Bell is still of course the best running back in the league. Those involved with the Steelers have seemed to come to terms with the fact that chances are, they won’t have him on their team next year no matter when he comes back this year. Most fans have even gone a step further and are in hopes that he won’t come back at all. According to a poll surveyed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the largest newspaper in the Pittsburgh area, 66% of people don’t want him to come back (Cook, 2018). Ben Roethlisberger has also expressed his neutral stance on the topic (Gentille, 2018). While this may not completely be his fault, national media has tended to put the blame on Bell throughout this entire process.
At first, they reported the story as if he was a selfish person and wasn’t concerned with how his team would fare this year without him. While this may be true from a certain standpoint, it seems that it is rare for anybody in the national media to take Bell’s side throughout the holdout. The truth is that this entire issue has been a long time coming between Le’Veon Bell and his current team of five years.
Bell has previously expressed communication issues with the Steelers regarding a contract extension for the pro-bowl running back. These issues have dated back to the 2016 off-season after his rookie contract had expired. He has been tagged twice since then as the two sides have still been unable to reach an agreement on an extension. Near the end of last season, Bell made it known to the media that if the Steelers decided to tag him again, he would consider holding out or even retiring (Quinn, 2018). During this year’s training camp, he also made it clear multiple times that he would not play in the regular season without a long-term contract and a good amount of guaranteed money. The media still seemed to be surprised and disappointed when he didn’t sign his franchise tender before the season started, and they continue to feel the same way every week that has gone by since.
The fact still remains that Bell has been over-worked by the Steelers in the past and has continuously risked injury while playing a position that is arguably the most dangerous in an already dangerous sport. Continuing to play would be a huge risk for Bell without a long-term contract. We’ll see how long this holdout lasts, but I’d be willing to bet that Bell will continue to remain the bad guy in the eyes of the media until then.
Cook, R. (2018, October 15). Ron Cook: One Steeler ready for Le’Veon Bell’s return — James Conner. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved from http://www.post-gazette.com/sports/ron-cook/2018/10/15/Ron-Cook-Steelers-running-back-James-Conner-welcome-back-Le-Veon-Bell-Deion-Sanders-Ben-Roethlisberger-ESPN/stories/201810160027
Gentille, S. (2018, October 23). Ben Roethlisberger has thoughts on ‘Coach Todd’ and Le’Veon Bell. Sort of. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved from http://www.post-gazette.com/sports/steelers/2018/10/23/patrick-peterson-steelers-ben-roethlisberger-937-the-fan-leveon-bell-james-conner/stories/201810230110
Quinn, S. (2018, October 10). The unabridged timeline of Le’Veon Bell’s holdout. In 247sports.com. Retrieved from https://247sports.com/nfl/pittsburgh-steelers/ContentGallery/LeVeon-Bell-absence-timeline-121486548/#121486548_4