Le'Veon Bell is no longer a Pittsburgh Steeler. If they want to move forward and galvanize the team and bring it back from the dysfunctional mess it has become, then the Pittsburgh Steelers need to make it official. They need to trade Le’Veon Bell.
Yes, Le’Veon Bell is one of the most talented backs in the league, and you win by having talented players. But you also win by having cohesiveness, motivation, and team unity to go with that talent. Just like you can’t win with a bunch of mediocre players that play together, you won’t win in football with talented players that are not a team.
The Le’Veon Bell situation has crossed the Rubicon. This isn’t about money anymore, or at least money that he can make this year. This is different than a player holding out at the start of a season to create leverage to get that new deal. Le’Veon Bell cannot sign a new deal this year, past the franchise deadline. No, this is about creating pain and problems for the team, and Bell saving himself for a different one.
We saw last year that Bell was pre-occupied with his contract situation and talking retirement right before a playoff game. We have already heard his agent suggesting that his concern now is too many hits before signing his big deal. Yes, the Le’Veon Bell of the last several years was great. I don’t think Pittsburgh is going to get that guy again. Is he really going to lay it on the line? Is he going to take that extra hit to get a key first down? Will he grouse on the sidelines if he gets to too many carries? The downside of keeping him at this point is every bit as costly as any upside.
I know what the concerns are, and the team has publicly put out through Adam Schefter (before the season) that he won’t be traded or the tag rescinded. Bell would need to sign the franchise tender and be on board with doing so to facilitate a trade. If we give in now, we let him win. Maybe he is engaging in this behavior to force a trade to a team that will pay him now, all along.
To that, I say this is about the Steelers and what they need to do to maximize their team this year. James Conner is more than capable of handing the starting running back position, and this offense is still loaded with talent. This isn’t about what happens with Bell going forward. You can worry about precedent of trading away a back throwing a tantrum and not caring about your team any more after franchising him twice when it happens again in the future.
And the upside of shipping him out is tremendous. We already saw plenty of public division over his absence, with linemen speaking out. We’ve seen Antonio Brown have a diva-like week, not staying around to speak with the press, responding poorly on Twitter, and not showing up on Monday. Cutting loose of a top player like Bell sends a message. No more. No more of the looking ahead and thinking about other concerns when a playoff game is to be won. No more looking outside the locker room for solutions. No more nonsense. It’s time to look at the guys next to you and dig deep and rally.
We’ve seen this before. Back in 2001, Bill Belichick suspended Terry Glenn, even though he was the most talented receiver, how much did making the decision to focus on the ones committed to the team that year help with what happened? We’ll never know. Belichick also traded away Jamie Collins to the Browns for a 3rd round pick, and Collins got his contract in Cleveland. I don’t think the Steelers can get a first rounder for Bell, but they should be able to get a pick similar to what they would get as a compensatory selection when he leaves. Yes, I’d take a 3rd to be done with Bell, and there should be some potential teams that would pay that price even if they didn’t want to pay him long term.
So I would move on. Don’t let the “which week will he decide to return” infect the team. Move forward with the guys that have been practicing all along, and send a message that it’s on them. The Steelers can’t afford to let Le’Veon Bell submarine this season.