Le’Veon Bell Owes Nothing to the Steelers or City of Pittsburgh


Following his tweet saying that he’d “never” leave Pittsburgh, Steelers fans steadfastly expect Le’Veon Bell to remain loyal to the team. Newsflash: loyalty in sports is a fantasy.

Le’Veon Bell owes you nothing.

Oh, the humanity. The thought of a professional athlete not staying loyal to his first team, leaving the city where he made his mark for a heftier paycheck elsewhere – infuriating, right? It shouldn’t be.

If you’re among the crowd that expects Le’Veon Bell to stay with the Steelers for the entirety of his career, you’re in desperate need of a reality – and an ego – check.

It all started when Bell responded to a Twitter user asking if he was ever going to leave the Steelers. Bell’s candid response, of course, was never.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, Steelers fans have taken Bell’s tweet as gospel. To them, it is now cemented in stone that Le’Veon Bell is and always shall be a Pittsburgh Steeler. Under no circumstances can he join another team – he said so himself that he wouldn’t!

Sound familiar?

Brett Favre said he would always be a Packer before joining the Vikings. LeBron James claimed that he would never leave Cleveland before he took his talents to South Beach. Kevin Durant once vowed himself to Oklahoma City and just signed with the Warriors.

Athletes lie sometimes. We all do. But the microscope under which these players are scrutinized for business decisions is far beyond what you and I can imagine.

This is not to imply that Bell will immediately leave the Steelers when his contract expires next offseason. However, assuming such loyalty from a young All-Pro running back on a cap-strapped team is simply foolish.

In his newest song “Focus”, Bell (aka Juice) says “Imma need 15 a year and they know this”. If you’re confused, 15 = $15 million per year. “They” refers to the Steelers, or perhaps any NFL team interested in Bell’s services. 

While it is possible that Bell’s lyrics were just for show, he has a legitimate case for seeking $15 million per season. Adrian Peterson is currently the highest-paid running back in the NFL, earning an average of $14 million per year.

Bell and Peterson’s recent rushing numbers stack up fairly evenly, but the one area where Bell outshines Peterson is in receiving. In nine seasons, Peterson has totaled 1,937 receiving yards; Bell has amassed 1,389 in only three.

Bell’s contributions to the offense are invaluable. The case has already been made for the Steelers to re-sign him. There’s no doubt that the Steelers would love to reach a new contract with Bell, but will the money work out?

Here’s the problem: to many fans, Bell shouldn’t even be remotely concerned with the money. “He already earns more than most people make in their life!” 

Bell’s current NFL salary is well beyond the national average, sure, but he is still on his rookie deal. Bell will earn a total of $1.3 million in 2016. That’s highway robbery for a player of his caliber.

Saying that Bell or any other player shouldn’t be concerned with money is an arrogant remark. Why should Bell worry about the money? Oh, I don’t know, maybe because he plays one of the most brutal positions in sports and has already suffered two leg injuries?

Bell can seek such a high salary because he possesses a skill set that is absent from 98% of the population. Football is his occupation, and the Steelers just happen to be his current employer.

“But the Steelers give Bell the best chance of winning a Super Bowl!” That’s likely true. But if Bell values more money above winning championships, that’s his decision, not yours.

Our sports fandom too often gives us a foggy interpretation of what being loyal really is. Do you care more about an individual player or the actual franchise you support?

Le’Veon Bell has transformed into the NFL’s most complete running back with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Fans have grown to adore him, but their long-term expectations for Bell have gotten out of hand.

Bell has played his heart out for Pittsburgh – but that doesn’t mean he can’t do the same elsewhere. Should he leave, it will be sad to see him go, but criticizing him for a professional decision is childish.

Especially when your judgment is based on a tweet.

Contract info via Spotrac; stats via Pro Football Reference