Well here we are. Four days before the kickoff of the NFL regular season, and no sign of Le’Veon Bell. At this point it’s a lock he will miss at least one regular season game, probably several. Bell has taken his share of shots from both teammates and media for his now apparent “hold out”. The fact of the matter is the Steelers allowed this to happen. I’d go a step further and say they are to blame for the situation they have put themselves in with Le’Veon Bell.
It’s just bad business to use the franchise tag on a player for a second straight year knowing full well you have no intention of resigning after the season. Neither side wins in that scenario. Bell does not get the long-term contract, and the Steelers get no compensation for the best back in football when he walks in 2019. Once it became clear there was not going to be a deal before the franchise tag deadline, Kevin Colbert should have been actively shopping Bell. Instead the team took the hard line, and this very predictable outcome has begun. Nobody can fault the Steelers for not caving in to Bell’s contract demands. What they can be faulted for is not coming up with a better solution than just doing nothing.
The Oakland Raiders took lots of grief for trading their star player Khalil Mack, but which team is in a better situation now? Right or wrong, the Raiders were never going to sign Mack long-term just as the Steelers aren’t with Bell. Now Oakland has two first round picks in their pocket, and zero drama heading into week one. They will not be playing the “will he, won’t he show up” game all season long. Pittsburgh is facing the possibility of six games with Le’veon Bell, and maybe a third round pick as compensation when he leaves as a free agent. Not to mention the endless distractions that will come with a prolonged absence from Bell.
The situation is now worse than anyone could have predicted. With teammates actively coming out against Bell, what does this do to the locker room when he comes back? There will certainly be resentment on both sides. Could Le’veon Bell be handling this better? Sure, but that’s not in the Steelers control. The team had a chance to wash their hands of this situation and move on. Instead, they have opened themselves up to weeks of drama and headaches. Welcome to the Pittsburgh Steelers football, we should have expected no less.