By Steve Samek
With training camp just, a couple weeks away the hot button topic for the Pittsburgh Steelers is running back Le’veon Bell.
Bell is playing with the franchise tag this season. Bell feels like he is entitled to the big money. Wanting to get paid like a number one back and a number two receiver. https://www.si.com/nfl/2017/07/25/leveon-bell-pittsburgh-steelers-kirk-cousins-washington-redskins-themmqb-andrew-brandt.
The problem is do the Steelers want to pay for the on the field Bell, or the off the field Bell.
On the field Bell is a top talent rushing for 1,268 yards on 261 attempts while scoring seven touchdowns. http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/gamelog/_/id/15825/leveon-bell
This was in 12 games after missing the first one’s due to suspension. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000687567/article/leveon-bells-suspension-reduced-to-three-games.
Bell has been suspended to start the past two seasons for drug issues. The Steelers have had no trouble parting ways with stars with off the field issues like Plaxico Burress, or Santonio Holmes. Yet the Steelers also held on to Ben Roethlisberger, despite off the field issues.
Too push Bell the Steelers drafted James Conor in the third round. Conor can learn under Bell and then take over as the starter when Bell leaves in two years. http://www.nfl.com/draft/2017/profiles/james-conner?id=2557978. This would be dependent on Conor working out, but the expectation is there. Conor is a Public relations darling as well between beating cancer and being drafted by the NFL team in the same city he went to college in. He is also amongst the best-selling jerseys in the NFL. https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/look-steelers-backup-rookie-rb-james-conner-has-the-nfls-top-selling-jersey/. So, if Conor performers and stays out of trouble the organization helps to maintain the positive image the Steelers are known for.
Running backs seem to come and go and developing them seems easier than finding a franchise quarterback. That’s why I feel Roethlisberger was kept and receivers were let go, even with off the field issues.
I think that will be the case with Bell. He can play out the final two years of his contract and then move on. That way the Steelers can take advantage of his performance the next two years, but then get rid of him if he continues to be a headache off the field.
Bell wants to hold out and can do so. Antonio Brown is trying to get him not to. Brown is more focused on teaming up with Bell to get to the Super Bowl this season. http://thebiglead.com/2017/07/26/antonio-brown-vs-leveon-bell-is-an-interesting-subplot/. Should be an interesting idea, but Brown needs to tread lightly before he gets into trouble.
Bell is a big contributor to this team. He needs to be on the field. He just needs to behave off of it.