After his recent post on twitter, it now appears Le’veon Bell will report to the Steelers on September 1st. That’s one day after the club’s last pre-season game in case you are wondering. If this is indeed the case, it will leave Bell about a week of practices to get ready for the season. That doesn’t seem like a whole lot of time to get into football shape. We’ve already seen countless Steelers struggle with muscle pulls thus far as they try to prepare for the upcoming season. Key players like Ryan Shazier, Mike Mithchell, and Cam Sutton have all missed significant time due to such injuries. These players still have time to recuperate and make it back before the regular season. Bell has left himself no wiggle room in this regard.
By skipping training camp and the entire pre-season Le’veon Bell has doubled down on his gamble of turning down the team’s long-term contract offer. Not being in “football shape” heading into week one is just asking for trouble. While nobody doubts that Bell has kept himself in top physical condition, players will tell you it’s impossible to replicate training camp on your own. If he were to suffer a pull of some sort, the star running back has no time to heal short of missing games. And we all know what that would do to his bargaining power going into next year. Not to mention the bad blood it must be creating with the Pittsburgh front office.
Let’s say Le’veon Bell makes it through the regular season, and is able to match last year’s performance. How much more will his value have increased? He will be another year older, with another season with major mileage under his belt. The injury and off the field concerns don’t just suddenly go away. Add to that the fact he still has no real leverage because the team still has the right to franchise him for another season. The running back market isn’t doing him any favors either. Devonta Freeman’s recent contract averages a little over eight million per season. That’s significantly below the $12 million that the Steelers were offering. There are no significant deals on the horizon either. The only backs close to Bell’s talents are David Johnson and Ezekial Elliot. Both of those players have years left on thier rookie deals before they can start thinking about the next contracts.
So Le’veon Bell gambled on himself by turning down the richest contract in the NFL for a running back. The odds of him playing better than last year, staying healthy, and being able to have the Steelers shatter the dismal running back market are slim to none. Any gambler in Las Vegas would walk away from those odds in a second. For his sake, he better be a far better football players then a gambler. Because this is a bet the house is sure to win.