As it turns out, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ best negotiator for running back Le’Veon Bell, at least as it pertains to the 2017 season, has been on their 90-man roster all along. You may have seen recently wide receiver Antonio Brown pleading his case in a brief media interview for Bell to report with the team to training camp, saying that both he and the team need him to be there.
Brown picked up that message on Twitter yesterday, writing, “it’s Super Bowl season let’s go bro”, followed by Bell’s Twitter handle. He included four pencil emojis, indicating an urge for the running back to sign his franchise tender, and praying hands.
It’s Super Bowl season let’s go bro @L_Bell26 ??????????????
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) July 24, 2017
It goes without saying that Brown and Bell, arguably the Steelers’ two most talented players, are close, and they both also understand how important they are to the team. They are two thirds of the ‘Killer Bs’ offense that also includes quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and have been named All-Pros.
It is rare for one team to have both a wide receiver and a running back that can be safely argued as being the best at their position, but that is what the Steelers have—or should have—for at least one more season with these two pieces in place.
While Brown himself may have just signed an enormous new contract for himself, he also understands how important it is to win a Super Bowl, which is his ultimate goal. And he also understands how important Bell is to the Steelers’ chances of winning the Super Bowl.
For as much as Charlie Batch may believe that there will be no ill will within the locker room toward players who choose to hold out, because the players understand that every situation is unique, and that they may one day be in a similar circumstance, the groundwork has already been set for Bell’s teammates to comment on his absence.
They already starting doing this as far back as OTAs, when Ben Roethlisberger made a reference to the fact that Bell was not present, saying something along the lines that it would be nice if he were there with his teammates.
Roethlisberger was not the only one to comment on his absence at the time, and he certainly will not be the only one should Bell end up not showing up for the start of training camp at Saint Vincent College. Of course, we already see Brown putting the pressure on him to report.
Realistically, there isn’t really anything of practical importance for Bell to gain from not reporting. The time has passed during which he could work out a long-term deal, and he will be receiving minimal work at best during training camp, so the injury risk is low.
But the risk of damaging morale and his relationship with his peers is arguably greater, which is something he should take into consideration for his Thursday plans.