Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell is facing a 4 game suspension for missing several drug tests. This is not ideal. But, though the Steelers might lose him for 4 games, they might get to keep him for years.
So Le’Veon Bell might miss the first 4 games of the 2016 season. If it feels like deja vu, don’t worry it’s not, that’s actually twice as long as he was suspended in 2015. Between injury and suspension Bell is the incredible invisible running back. But its possible his absences could be an investment that will provide many more games as a return.
First, let’s talk about how we got here. Since being drafted in the 2nd round in 2013 Bell has missed multiple games due to suspension and injury. In his 3 years in the NFL he has missed a game due to injury in every one, and a game due to suspension in 2. Kind of, the 2nd suspension is in the 4th year technically.
A preseason injury forced Bell to miss the start of the season in 2013. A knee injury forced him to miss a playoff game in 2014. In 2015 he was suspended for 2 games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and shortly after his return he was lost for the season with another knee injury.
So, of a total possible 51 games, 48 regular season and 3 playoff games, Bell has only played in 35. When Bell is on the field he’s the best running back, capable of approaching 2500 yards from scrimmage. But Bell often isn’t on the field. In fact, nearly a third of the time, 31.37%, Bell is not on the field.
And now, ESPN’s Dan Graziano reports that Le’Veon Bell is facing a 4 game suspension for missing “several” drug tests. It is being appealed but pending that we can assume Bell will miss the first four games of the 2016 season.
So what good can possibly come of this?
Well you won’t have to fret over who to pick first in your fantasy draft anymore. You can go with Antonio Brown.
Otherwise, there is a mitigating circumstance we should bring up before we dive into the one positive.
DeAngelo Williams being on the team will help. The backup running back position, especially when you’re backing up Bell whom the Steelers rarely spell, is not one where signings are big affairs. They lost a playoff game in 2014 because they didn’t even think to sign a backup until Bell was injured.
This Colbert brain fart was followed up by total redemption. Williams is the signing that keeps on giving. His ageless stamina will once again be heavily leaned on. With only 10 starts last year he got over 1250 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns.
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Then when Bell comes back he’ll be presumably fresh and ready to play, more so than other NFL players who have 4 more weeks of wear and tear. But no, that’s not the positive I had in mind. What I had in mind was money.
Remember that song where Le’Veon Bell rapped that he was worth 15 million dollars?
I look forward to the remix. Because he’s not getting that.
Le’Veon Bell is becoming a free agent after this year. How much the Steelers would be willing or able to pay him is difficult to say at this point but it’s likely that 15 million dollars is an amount beyond what the Steelers could meet. This suspension drags his price tag down.
One obvious reason it does this is simply absence. So is 100% Bell worth 15 million dollars per year? Probably not. But even if he was he only plays two thirds of the time. So 66% of Le’Veon Bell is presumably worth 10 million or less. A more reasonable figure.
On top of that, the running back position doesn’t disappear with Bell, he gets replaced by Williams. And as we discussed, Williams does quite well. Every great game Williams has lowers the price tag on Le’Veon Bell. Williams is no slouch but he gets paid 2 million per year and is a few years past 30.
So if a running back over 30 can play at a Pro Bowl level for 2 million dollars, it makes what Bell does less impressive, financially speaking. Although Bell is a great running back let’s not forget he has many advantages. First, one of the top passing attacks in the league keeping people out of the box. Second, a great offensive line. And third, Big Ben and Haley directing the offense.
So if 2 million dollars can get you a roughly similar performance, then why does a guy who performs slightly better warrant 7 or 8 times that? Sure, you may feel Bell performs more than slightly better. But he’s not performing 7 or 8 times better.
But Bell has youth too. If he somehow stays healthy and never gets suspended again we can assume his best years are ahead of him. So a 3 million dollar Bell is not really in the cards. But if the Steelers can just match other teams or get close, then sticking with the home team, not moving his family, and being on a Super Bowl caliber team he’s already been successful with can keep him here.
The Steelers do not have to match any absurd figure Bell thinks up, just what other teams are willing to pay him. And this unfortunate circumstance lowers that amount to one more attainable by the Steelers. Is more attainable the same as attainable? We’ll know in a year.
All stats via NFL.com