It wasn't all that long ago that Le'Veon Bell was a fan-favorite in Pittsburgh. His number 26 jersey used to flood the stadium as one of the members of the 'Killer B's' frequently made his impact felt on the game. Bell was outstanding on his rookie contract, and the Steelers slapped the franchise tag on the former second-round pick in 2017.
While the Steelers wanted Bell to come to terms on a new deal, the two-time All-Pro running back wasn't satisfied with the guaranteed money that Pittsburgh was offering. When the Steelers tried to franchise Bell for the second year in a row, he wasn't having it. A contract dispute ensued, and Bell would go on to sit out the entire 2018 season.
After forcing his way out the door, Bell inked a 4-year, $52.5 million deal with the New York Jets during the 2019 offseason. However, Bell really struggled on his new team. Just two years into his second season in New York, Bell's contract was terminated.
It has now been nearly five years since Bell refused to play on the second franchise tag for the Steelers, and bridges were burnt with the organization when he forced his way out. The Steelers fanbase that had been loyal to Bell up until that point wanted nothing to do with him. Now, years later, Bell has officially apologized for leaving the Steel City.
It may have taken him this long to realize (or at least to admit publicly) that he was wrong for leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers. Though Bell made plenty of money in his career, it's safe to assume that it would have been much better for his career path to stick around for a few more years.
Prior to his season-long holdout in 2018, Bell led the NFL in both carries and total toches in 2017. Even with taking an entire season off, the running back's efficiency plummeted on his new team, and the Jets were quick to give up on him.
Steelers fans should be thankful for the apology
Nobody ever requires retired players to come out and apologize for the way they wronged their former team, but it was a nice gesture of Le'Veon to do so. Back when the fallout happened, teammates were reportedly very upset that Bell did not keep them in the loop and inform them of his decision to hold out.
Now Bell has formally apologized to what he calls the best fanbase in the world, reiterating that he 'should never have left.' We obviously don't love the way that this whole thing played out way back when, but we can at least respect Bell for coming out and offering an apology. Let's let bygones be bygones and shift our focus to the 2023 season.