Perhaps no one on TV has been able to offer more insight into Le’Veon Bell than Ike Taylor. Bell and Taylor appear to have a pretty close relationship and have communicated throughout Bell’s franchise tag “saga,” in which he and the Pittsburgh Steelers were unable to come to a long-term agreement.
Appearing on Dave Dameshek’s show on NFL.com, Taylor said that despite the financial disagreements, Bell wants to stay in Pittsburgh. You can check out the entire, entertaining interview at the link.
“Here’s from Ohio, man,” Taylor told Dameshek. “He really wants to be in Pittsburgh. That’s what he told me. He really wants to be in Pittsburgh.”
But Taylor reiterated the apparent sticking point between Bell and the team. Bell wants to be viewed as a complete player, not just a running back.
“I’m the number one running back in the league. Basically, that’s what you’re telling me,” Taylor said of the Steelers’ decision to tag Bell for $12.1 million this year. “Now the ball is in my court…and I’m the second best receiver on the team? It’s 12. Man, you all shoot me a cool three, put that thing at 15 million. Not because of position wise. That’s just how valuable I am to the team. You’re asking me to do a lot.”
That statement from Taylor appears to be paraphrasing Bell’s points and why he didn’t accept the Steelers’ final offer.
It is a difficult idea for us to empathize with, the contract offered was still a boatload of money, but Bell’s point is at least understandable. He’s not just a unique runner but a unique player who has done everything on the field for the team. He’s shattered the team record for receptions by a running back and his reception totals wind up looking more like a receiver.
The good news, as we’ve talked about, is the relationship between Bell and the organization is still strong. Bell has stated he understands these conflicts are purely business, nothing personal, and I am positive the Steelers feel the same way. Each side is acting on good faith.
The downside is how tough it may be for the Steelers to bridge the gap between what they’ve offered, a little more than 12 million per season, and what Bell wants, closer to 15 million. There’s also the understated issue over possible guaranteed money, though we don’t know much in the way of what Pittsburgh offered.
Each side will resume talks after the season and see if they can get any closer. Taylor did point out, though this is stating the obvious, that the team will tag Bell again if a long-term deal isn’t reached before free agency. The 2018 tag will cost roughly $14.5 million.
For most fans, hearing Bell’s thoughts through Taylor may not make them any happier. But his situation should at least be more understandable, though I’m far from convinced the Steelers will ever wind up agreeing.