The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently negotiating with Le’Veon Bell for a long-term deal. Kevin Colbert has said that he wants to sign Bell and that is usually an indication that something will get done.
The Steelers are likely placing the franchise tag on him for the second consecutive year and so worse case scenario they will have him for another year. This year the cap number is around 14.5 million, but that is still less than their best offer last year.
Le’Veon Bell has said that he would hold out or retire if the Steelers placed the franchise tag on him. This would yield him not making any money in the prime of his career money-wise and so you have to take that with a grain of salt.
What is more likely is that he will hold out all of training camp and maybe some the regular season. The Steelers have a number of reasons to sign him long-term.
#1 The Bell and AB duo makes it impossible for defenses to key on both
When the Steelers have both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell in the lineup, the Steelers offense becomes among the most difficult to defend against. “Its pick your poison” as Le’Veon Bell suggests for defenses when they have to cover both.
Teams can either double cover Antonio Brown and leave a safety open for Le’Veon Bell to run through or put eight men in the box and leave Antonio Brown in single coverage. Either way, the Steelers can rely on a star to produce for their offense.
#2 You aren’t going to find a better back than Le’Veon Bell
The Steelers can draft another running back or sign one in free agency, but either way, they likely won’t outproduce Le’Veon Bell. There are comparable runners in the league like Kareem Hunt and Ezekiel Elliott, but it is not likely that either will be available anytime soon.
It’s not like the Steelers have a history of signing high-profile free agents. I have yet to see a draft prospect that can produce at the level Bell can. In fact, it even took Bell a year to turn the corner.
#3 Bell can do more than just run
What makes Bell so valuable is that he can do other things for your offense outside running the ball. When it is a passing play, Le’Veon Bell is their #2 receiver. He is very effective in the slot.
He is also dangerous in the screen game. The other thing to love about Bell’s game is that he can block. The Steelers can keep Bell in the backfield on a passing play and absorb the blitz.
#4 The Steelers know Bell
Le’Veon Bell has gotten himself in trouble in Pittsburgh. He had a marijuana DUI and failed a drug test. He also has not been gracious in the negotiating process. He held out of camp last year and came back sluggish. He hasn’t won any friends threatening to retire.
However, the Steelers know Bell and have been able to deal with him over the years. He does come off as a very confident player. He could use that to be a leader instead of a problem if he gets a new contract.
When he gets paid, he won’t hold out of camp and create a distraction with his contract. In his older years, he may have learned a lesson or two from his younger ones.
#5 If he wears down, then they could only have to eat one year of contract
Now in a perfect world, Bell would play out his contract and keep up his production. Some would say that the running back wears down quicker than any other position.
This is true and the reason the Steelers will not guarantee as much money down the line. However, if the number of carries and age catches up with him, they could cut him and only incur one year of dead money.
This is a smaller price to pay than to not have all the “Killer Bs” to make a Super Bowl runs for the next three years.