With the franchise tag deadline passing, the local radio waves in Pittsburgh have been busy discussing every angle of Le’Veon Bell, who has yet to sign his one year deal. Should he hold out? Is he worth a long term deal? Will the Steelers sign him to a long term contract beyond next year? It is a lot of content in a slow time period of sports. However, most of the answers are simple and have been answered since January when the season ended. Let us break it down.
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Why didn’t Bell and the Steelers come to terms?
Everyone should have known that Bell and the Steelers were not going to reach a deal. On one side, Bell is arguably the biggest chess piece in all of football. He can line up everywhere, and make plays in every facet of the offensive game. His patience is the most noted quality but his footwork is up there with the best of them and makes him a star route runner. He knows this, the Steelers know this, it is going to cost money to sign Bell.
On the other, this is a guy who has been suspended twice and has never finished a season healthy. How do you invest long term in that type of question mark? You have to try to load up on incentives and clauses, and try to bring him on for the intermediate future, which reports came out saying that they did. Bell knows what he is worth, he knows a healthy season means more money, and he is betting on himself.
What will happen beyond this year?
When Bell signs his one year deal this offseason, the 2017 season will weigh the most towards what his 2018 price tag will be. If Bell gets injured or suspended, he is not going to make as much as if he led the team in receptions and rushing yards. Makes sense right? Yes, the Steelers drafted James Connor. However, he profiles as a power and short yardage back, which is the perfect complement to Bell. That should just indicate less of a load and an easier chance to stay healthy in the long term for Bell. So while you can lay out the long term game plan for Bell, it should be obvious that the second he steps foot on a football field in 2017, his value completely changes. Kind of makes all of the talk about his future this offseason a moot point, no?
Will Le’veon Bell hold out?
Who cares? Seriously, this is filler. Bell was suspended the first three games of last season. In week four he carried the ball 18 times for 144 yards and added five catches for 34 yards. This was the Chiefs defense before a Derrick Johnson injury that truly dropped down the quality of that run defense. Still, Johnson and all, Bell mowed them down without the “familiarity of the offense”, or being “in game shape.” Sure, Bell showing up to training camp is better than him not showing up, especially if he wants a long term deal in Pittsburgh. Still, the bottom line is that Bell has to show up eventually, he will sign the one-year franchise tag, and he will be competing to earn a job in Pittsburgh or elsewhere throughout his season.
How replaceable is Bell?
Some may see the Steelers being completely fine moving on without him. Pointing to DeAngelo Williams does not make sense, though. Williams had two strong games to start the season in 2016. Then, he spent most of the season on the injury report and missed eight games throughout the year. That is what is going to replace Bell and make everything fine? This thought should only increase the value of Bell. He has had his durability issues but has carried the offense without a backup running back for an entire season. No running back off of the street, or a former first round back such as DeAngelo Williams can consistently do what Bell does.
This thought also cancels out the idea of ceilings and limitations. Schematically, Bell in the lineup makes the Steelers a completely different entity. Teams are forced week in and week out to scheme around Le’Veon Bell. How different Bell is stylistically cannot be compared to any other player.
The Steelers can win games without Bell and also gives the Steelers a ceiling that they do not have without him. The Patriots won three games without Tom Brady last season. The Patriots would not have won a Super Bowl without Tom Brady last season.
The bottom line is that Bell is rare. Bell is going to play this season, and worrying about how many training camp snaps he takes in the first team offense is a subject that will be forgotten the minute the NFL season kicks off. Enjoy the end of summer, do not worry about Le’Veon Bell and get ready for a 2017 season that is going to be absolutely crucial in figuring out his long term status with the team.