Le'Veon Bell is an enormously talented running back who is really fed up with his contract circumstances with the Steelers. He’s brought this up publicly in the lead-up to the team’s playoff game against the Jags, threatening to perhaps retire if he was hit with the franchise tag again.
Now we are learning that his words of dismay also bled over to his behavior. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in a story about general issues Tomlin has with controlling his team, reports:
As another example, Tomlin wants players and coaches to report to the locker room two hours before kickoff for games. That was continually ignored by both players and a coach or two. Not only did Bell arrive much later than that for the playoff game against Jacksonville (as well as one coach), he missed practically the entire Saturday walk-through the day before, showing up about five minutes before practice ended.
It’s worth noting that Bell had 155 total yards and two touchdowns in this game, and that it was weird he only had 16 carries. The walkthrough thing is symbolic of broader issues and obviously a headache for Tomlin, but it’s hard to make an argument that it adversely impacted his individual performance.
If Bell is franchised for a second straight season, he would make $14.57 million. However, he wants more long-term financial security. Bouchette also notes:
He turned down their offer last year of a contract that would have paid him more than $12 million on average per year and more than $30 million in the first two. The next highest-paid backs earn $8.5 million per year. His agent wanted to take it, Bell did not.
There is still some context lacking in these numbers — how much was guaranteed for injury, and how much was fully guaranteed? — and we also don’t know how much Bell would command on the open market. He will only be 26 next season and would seem to have 3-4 more years in his physical prime.
This isn’t that profound a thing to say, but the Steelers are going to have to weigh Bell’s immense production stemming from his threat as both a runner and receiver versus the fact that he will be unhappy with his contractual terms and lash out about them at inconvenient times.