Leading up to the 2017 NFL season, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell elected to hold out due to contract negotiations. On September 4th, Bell ended the off-season saga by signing his franchise tag, which will pay him $12.1 million by the end of this season. With Bell finally signing the franchise tag, the question now is whether Bell will get the extension that he has been seeking from the team.
In 16 regular season games last season, Bell rushed for 1,268 yards and 8 touchdowns. On top of that, he also had 76 receptions for 616 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. Last year, Bell was a huge part in helping Pittsburgh win the AFC North and advance to the AFC Championship game, only to lose to the eventual Super Bowl winners: The New England Patriots.
Ever since entering the NFL in 2013, Bell has proven that he is arguably the best running back in the league, which is evident in his blazing speed, as well as his ability to break tackles. Bell is undoubtedly one of the top running backs in the NFL for a reason, and he should continue to hold his own, especially with him only being 25-years old.
This is not the first time that the Steelers and Bell have been on different pages, as this controversy has been ongoing since last season, in which Bell believed he deserved a lot more than the $4.12 million salary he was receiving during his rookie contract.
On July 14th, which marked the last day the Steelers could cut a deal with Bell, the franchise reportedly put an offer on the table for Bell and his agent, which was a 5-year deal, and was worth more than $12 million annually. On that day, Pittsburgh thought that everything was going well, and believed that Bell was going to put pen to paper and sign the extension, only to have Bell pull out of the contract at the last minute.
With the numbers that Bell has produced over the past few seasons, he is a very important piece of the Steelers offense. With him in the lineup, Pittsburgh does not have to depend on veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for most of the offensive production, which is crucial, considering Roethlisberger is aging. In fact, trying to lock up Bell to a long-term contract should be very high on the priority list for General Manager Kevin Colbert and the rest of the front office.
Even though the Steelers are currently having problems re-signing Bell, that does not mean that the team is having a problem signing other players to contract extensions. Outside of Bell, Pittsburgh has locked up Pro-Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown to a four-year contract worth $68 million dollars, which makes Brown the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL at the moment.
With the way Bell plays, it should be a no-brainer that he should get a big contract from Pittsburgh, but it is easier said than done. Since 2013, Bell has only played a full season once in his entire career, and that was in 2014. Yes, Bell is a physical running back, but his lack of playing time has proven to be a concern.
Another reason that signing Bell to a long-term contract might be concerning is the fact that ever since getting drafted in 2013, Bell has had two large incidents with the NFL. In 2014, Bell, alongside then-teammate LeGarrette Blount, was arrested for DUI and marijuana possession. Due to the arrest, Bell was suspended for three games, which was then reduced to two games after a successful appeal process.
In 2016, Bell once again was suspended, this time it was for the first three games of the regular season, due to violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. This was a huge blow to the Steelers, who ended up finishing 2-1 during his suspension.
With Bell becoming a potential free agent next summer, someone will likely pay him the money that he is worth. In the NFL, you have to pay a lot of money to get superstar talent, and Bell is unquestionably a superstar. As long as Bell can produce the same type of numbers that he has been producing in the last few years, he will be getting a big pay day if he hits the free agent market, and it will either be from Pittsburgh, or from another NFL franchise.
The biggest reason why signing Bell to a long-term contract will be concerning is the fact that he is desiring too much money, and is aiming to become the highest-paid running back in the NFL. With the way he plays on the field, it makes sense for Pittsburgh to pay him. Off the field is a different tale, because when you hand players large contracts, you should want them to evolve as a leader in the locker room. For Bell, he has not proven those qualities in his short amount of time with Pittsburgh.
Photo Credit Joe Sargent/Getty Images
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