Le’Veon Bell is supposed to be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers by the end of the season. Supposed to be.
Without too many people getting upset over this comment – the Pittsburgh Steelers would’ve been in rough shape if James Conner didn’t become James Conner. If this was the same running back as 2017, this team would be having a lot tougher time winning games.
The headlines would be much different. “Steelers proving they should’ve paid Bell,” “Steelers need Le’Veon Bell to save season,” the list would’ve never ended.
But here we are, Week 9, third place in the AFC, leading the North and on a three game winning streak heading into the second half of the season. All without Le’Veon Bell touching the ball once.
James Conner doesn’t need to be introduced. A run down of his accomplishments this season doesn’t need to be explained. If you’re reading this, you know what No. 30 has done on the field in Bell’s absence.
He’s not someone to split carries – if Conner is in the backfield, he’s worth handing the ball to 20 times a game. As Bell has shown throughout his career, that doesn’t leave much room for another back.
There is a place for Bell, though. One he won’t be upset about. When returning to Pittsburgh, sometime in the next two weeks, he’ll become the NFL’s most expensive third-down runner.
You’re laughing, but it’s true. If he returns before the Week 11 deadline, he’ll still make roughly $6 million this season. Hand him the ball 10 times per game (a number that may be a little high) and over his seven game span, he’ll earn $85,000 per carry.
None of this is in the hands of the Steelers. Bell’s return will only come if and when he decides he wants it to. But once he’s in the facility, the decisions move to Pittsburgh. Maybe the NFL’s second-best running back last season shouldn’t be riding the bench in 2018, but in the circumstance this team is in, he should be.
Welcoming him back adds another piece to the puzzle. An important piece. And if 10 weeks of a missed season hasn’t ruined his ability to play effective football, he’ll make this team much more dangerous – even if it’s just his name being on the roster.
No one should be shunning Bell from the locker room. He knows he’s a backup when he returns, and yes, so do the Steelers.