There is certain to be drama and tension between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Le’Veon Bell this offseason. Bell is again adamant about wanting a long-term deal while it still seems likely the team puts the franchise tag on him. But it appears that tension existed before the offseason began. Ed Bouchette has a couple interesting nuggets of info in his State of the Steelers wrap up article.
In it, he reports Bell missed most of Saturday’s walkthrough before the Divisional loss to Jacksonville. He also showed up late to the game the next day. From Bouchette:
“Not only did Bell arrive much later than that for the playoff game against Jacksonville (as well as one coach), he missed practically the entire Saturday walk-through the day before, showing up about five minutes before practice ended.”
According to the article, Mike Tomlin asks for the entire team – players and coaches – to arrive at the stadium at least two hours prior to kickoff. It is unclear how late Bell was to Heinz Field on Sunday (and who the coach was). In a year of distractions across the entire team, it’s a fitting way to end the season.
Bell is looking to again be the league’s highest paid back, earning annually anywhere between $15 and $17 million.
Though it’s a bad look for Bell, and throws into question where his mind was at (he also essentially guaranteed a win over Jacksonville the day before), it’s probably not going to change the Steelers’ decision-making. They need Bell and they’re not going to let him freely test free agency in a year where the offense scored around that 30 point per game mark once everything started to click. With Ben Roethlisberger coming back, the team needs Bell to continue to be their workhorse.
A long-term deal is unlikely, or at best, difficult to get to, meaning they’re going to have to tag him to ensure he doesn’t hit the market. Then attempt to work on a long-term deal before the July deadline.
If there is a new contract reached, maybe throw in a clause about, you know, showing up to practice.