When it comes to players who are given the franchise tag and who ultimately do not work out a long-term deal with their team, history has shown that the manner of proceeding from that point forward could take on a number of paths. While the Pittsburgh Steelers are a more straight-laced organization than most, it is unclear at this point how things will ultimately play out.
What I do know is that this would not be the ideal offseason for running back Le’Veon Bell, who will now have to play under the franchise tag this year with the deadline passing yesterday, to hold out of training camp, and that is because of the turnover at the running back position behind him.
I speak in particular of the drafting of running back James Conner in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Conner is the biggest resource that the Steelers have committed to the running back position in the draft, other than Bell, since they drafted Rashard Mendenhall in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Suffice it to say it’s been a while.
But somebody has to show Conner the ropes at the NFL level, and I can’t help but feel that they somebody shouldn’t be Knile Davis, who is also in his first season with the Steelers, or Fitzgerald Toussaint. While I have full confidence in running back coach James Saxon, I think it is important for Bell to be a presence at training camp for Conner’s sake.
Of course, that is probably not going to be at the forefront of his thoughts as he contemplates his next course of action in the wake of his failure to secure a long-term deal, but it is something that is in the greater interests of the Steelers as a whole, and Bell did say that he doesn’t want to play for any other team.
He also wants to win a championship, and the Steelers are the team that he is playing for in 2017. Helping Conner helps the Steelers in their quest to win the Super Bowl in 2017, regardless of what might come to pass a year from now.
The fact of the matter is that in terms of tangible workload, Bell is going to be pretty much a water boy at training camp anyway. Recovering from groin surgery, one can expect that he will be held out of most everything, and likely only participate in any capacity in the third preseason game, the ‘tune-up’ for the regular season.
Chances are he exerts himself more doing his own private workouts than he would be asked to do in a training camp setting, so I don’t believe that a fear of risking injury is a credible argument for Bell should he choose to decide to hold out of training camp without signing his tender.
It doesn’t matter in 2017 what is going to happen in 2018. For the time being, Bell is a part of this team, and it is in the best interests of his team for him to be with his teammates, who have already been subtly voicing this take since OTAs.