Le'Veon Bell is still holding out and it doesn’t appear he’s going to report to the Pittsburgh Steelers any time soon. Given his current contract situation, why would he? Bell is an MVP-level offensive talent in the prime of his career and he should be paid as such.
The Steelers have placed the franchise tag on the 26-year-old running back for the second year in a row, meaning he is eligible to make $14.544 million this season. He has refused to sign that deal and is holding out for a longer deal. Considering how important he is to the Steelers, it makes sense to do so. Especially when the Los Angeles Rams just gave Todd Gurley a four-year, $60 million extension ($45 million guaranteed) this offseason. Bell is worth every bit of that deal and probably more.
In July, it was reported the Steelers offered Bell a five-year, $70 million deal with $33 million due in the first two years. But it was later revealed that the only fully guaranteed part of his deal would be the $10 million signing bonus. That’s a huge freaking revelation.
Running backs have short shelf lives, no one is more aware of that than the players themselves. Bell absolutely should not expose his body to more wear if he thinks he’s not being paid fairly.
In 15 games last season, Bell rushed for 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns while catching 85 passes for 655 yards and two more scores. He earned his third trip to the Pro Bowl and his second first-team All-Pro nod.
In 2016, Bell rushed for 1,268 yards on 261 carries (4.9 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns, while catching 75 passes for 616 yards and two more trips to the end zone. He was named second-team All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl. The guy is not just a running back, he’s a multi-dimensional weapon out of the backfield.
Bell already holds Steelers career records for rushing yards per game (86.3), receptions by a running back (307) and receiving yards by a running back (2,632) and he’s still just 26 years old.
If Bell shows up, the Steelers are undoubtedly going to use him, heavily. Lets remember that he had 406 total touches last season and 373 in 2014. Those marks are the second- and third-most touches by any running back in the last five years.
This is the time for Bell to strike gold on a big contract and he knows it. Because running backs wear out so quickly, he almost certainly won’t get another shot at a big deal. The guy has his future beyond football to think about and should do what he thinks is best.
Bell is clearly avoiding being run into the ground before hitting free agency in the offseason. He has to report by Week 10 in order to hit free agency in the offseason, but until then he has zero reason to come back.
Yes, I get why his Steelers teammates are upset and blasting him publicly. But, as far as we know, the franchise hasn’t stepped up and offered to pay him at a level commensurate to his value. Until the Steelers do that, Bell has no reason to play for them.