Pittsburgh Steelers: Evaluating Le’Veon Bell’s options heading into the deadline

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 29: Running back Le'Veon Bell
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 29: Running back Le'Veon Bell /

The Le’Veon Bell saga will likely be put the rest on Tuesday, as the Pittsburgh Steelers running back has a big decision to make.

One of Pittsburgh’s greatest questions may answer itself come Tuesday.

Pittsburgh Steelers half back Le’Veon Bell has been at the forefront of nearly every headline in Pittsburgh since the start of the 2018 season. Bell, who’s seemingly been tagged more times than the prize-winning cow at your local state fair, has not played a single down this season as part of a hold-out due to his contract situation with the organization.

The franchise tag, applied to Bell in the middle of summer, was worth $14.5 million had Bell shown up week one. Yet with Bell’s absence each week, nearly $9 million has been forfeited back to the Steelers thus far.

Why Tuesday is Such A Big Day

Tuesday is a notorious day for many reasons. For Taco lovers, it’s a day to get your weekly fix of cheap Mexican food. For Le’Veon, it’s his last chance to play football in 2018.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Bell would be ineligible to play the rest of the year should he not show up Tuesday. The deadline for Bell to report to the Steelers facility is 4 PM eastern time on Tuesday, leaving little time left for Le’Veon to make a decision. Should he not show, we have likely seen the last of Bell in a Steelers uniform.

Not showing appears to be the likely course of action for Bell, who’s been rumored to already have made his decision up.

However, when it comes to Le’Veon, we’ve come to expect the unexpected from the Michigan State product. While many favor Bell to not return, it’s certain Bell has weighed his options much like he should. Why would he sit? Why would he return?

Bell has always been about his money, which is why the holdout makes no sense when looking at the short-term financial impact. Bell, should he report to the Steelers facility on Tuesday, would be able to claim a little under half of the $14.5 million he would’ve made this year. His end with the Steelers post-2018 seems all but likely, so playing half the games to still earn a significant amount of money would favor Bell’s way of thinking.

On the other hand, Bell has been preserving himself to be fresh when he hits the market in 2019. Pittsburgh allotted 400+ touches for Bell last season, and was likely to do the same in 2018. Le’Veon remains on the sideline to improve his chances of attaining a long-term deal, despite some around the league who doubt he’ll be able to grab the cash he desperately has been fighting for.

The curiosity surrounding Bell is his social media use. Le’Veon shows signs of himself not by doing interviews or communicating with teammates/coaches, but by sly moves on his Twitter/Instagram pages. Bell was spotted back in Pittsburgh after tweeting “Fairwell Miami” (grammar isn’t his forte), and also sent a serious of tweets in support of his teammates during the Steelers 52-21 thrashing of the Panthers on Thursday Night Football.

Many thought a return was imminent before reports surfaced from ESPN that Bell was likely not coming back, although time still remains for Bell to report.

Will Bell report? Some still hold on to hope that he will, while others say he’s long gone. I was lucky enough to grab some opinions from around the league on what they make of Le’Veon’s situation:

Thoughts From Around The League

Mike J. Asti of Pittsburgh Sports Live and contributor of  93.7 The Fan. Twitter: @MikeAsti11

Throughout the season everyone associated with the Steelers has been saying they didn’t know when or if Bell would be back. That’s changed recently, with even Art Rooney II saying Bell will return soon. Bell will be back and the Steelers will welcome any help he can be towards the teams ultimate goal this season, despite all the drama and any personal feelings. Like it or not, Bell undoubtedly feels vindicated by Earl Thomas’ injury and now Dez Bryant losing his season before it even got started.

Bell wants to cash in on as much guaranteed money (that’s the key) as possible, knowing full well he could get seriously injured any moment he’s on the field and every time he’s tackled. The Steelers final offer to Bell did not include the level of guaranteed money many of his peers, most notably Todd Gurley, received. So Bell did not want to risk his body more than he has until he gets a fair amount of guaranteed money. That’s Bell’s thinking. While James Conner’s unexpected success validates the Steelers decision to not give Bell the money he wants, they shouldn’t and won’t turn down help from a former All-Pro the rest of the year either. No matter how this season ends for the Steelers and Bell, it’s safe to say it’ll be fun to watch.

Paul Brown of The Paul Brown Podcast covering the Cleveland Browns. Twitter: @PaulBrown_UK

Running Backs and the run game don’t matter, there is some value in good receiving back but nowhere near the $17m he wants. James Conner and Bell’s other replacements over the last 3 years have produced at the same level as Bell when he’s not played. The trade market and other teams doesn’t seem to be that interested in his else a move would have likely been done before the deadline.

Bell is either going to come back or could just as easily sit out the final few games. The Steelers could franchise him again next year but it’s not in their best interest to tie up that salary cap for another year even though you get it back long-term if he doesn’t play.

Richard Bradshaw, Ravens Site Expert for Ebony Bird. Twitter: @RichieBradz36

The Le’Veon Bell situation has been a frustrating debacle for everyone involved. While the Pittsburgh Steelers were interested in retaining Bell’s services, which was shown through the lengthy contract talks the team had with Bell and his agent, their patience has run thin. It was as clear as day that the Steelers were running Bell into the ground in 2017 to attempt to win a championship, only to let him walk as a free agent afterwards.

Meanwhile, Le’Veon Bell and his camp wanted to get a record-setting deal for arguably the league’s best running back. Bell, perhaps the most versatile player in the NFL, was rightfully owed a king’s ransom for the services he provided to the Steel City. Instead, the team was more interested in balding the tread on Bell’s tires. Realizing this, Bell appears to be all but set on sitting out for entirety of the 2018 season.

For the Steelers, they don’t miss Bell much at all. 2017 third round draft choice James Conner has performed admirably well in Bell’s place and is making next to nothing for his performance. For Bell, an entire year’s worth of rest following such a heavy workload was much-needed and will be extremely attractive for his future team.This was certainly a win-win scenario for all the parties involved; it’s just incredibly unfortunate how public the negotiations were, considering how hurtful some statements were towards each other’s respective camps. Perhaps Bell has burned bridges in Pittsburgh, both with the organization and its loyal fan-base, but this was certainly in his best interest moving forward.

From the outside looking in as an impartial fan, the battle between these two was upsetting and occasionally annoying. Thankfully, the smoke has cleared and everything has seemingly come to a rest. With both parties content with how everything went (on the surface at least), it’s a weight off all of our shoulders as fans to move forward with the season; especially with the playoff hunt beginning to heat up.

Logan Bell, Fantasy Football Contributor for Last Word On Sports. Twitter: @FantasyFootbell 

Despite the recent movement that suggests he’ll be back (“Farewell Miami” and Steelers ownership expecting him back), I still don’t believe he’ll be reporting this season. James Conner has been good enough to where the Steelers won’t be tagging him in the off-season, whether it’s the 3rd year price tag or this season’s salary total.

Next. 5 possible landing spots for Le'Veon Bell. dark

The Steelers have proven they don’t need Bell, which has hurt his value. So if any injury were to happen or if he were to hurt team chemistry and become a (bigger) distraction, that could hurt his value more. There’s no need for him to come back for either side’s benefit, so he should prepare for the off-season and free agency.