This is a bit of old news at this point, but I just came across the article yesterday, and I actually found it to be well-articulated, with a choice quote that I want to talk about. Bottom line, NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks does not believe that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be wise to give running back Le’Veon Bell a long-term contract.
I tend to get a couple of questions about Brooks’ bona fides when he is brought up, so I’ll get them out of the way. Prior to being an analyst, he was in the NFL as a player, a second-round draft pick in 1994, playing through 1998, though he was primarily limited to being a kick returner. He was a wide receiver by trade and made the conversion to defensive back in the pros. He also worked as a scout, from 1999 to 2007 before he became an analyst.
With that out of the way, Brooks makes a compelling argument that I suspect will resonate with those who already believe the team should not give Bell what he is asking for. I know that the Bell conversation has been beaten to death by now, but I feel it is worth a read.
He lays out many of the arguments that we have already heard, naturally. You don’t need a featured runner to win the Super Bowl, for example. He has an injury history, and a suspension history. His workload is substantial, etc., etc.
This is an interesting quote from “an AFC college scouting director”, however, and one that sounds like something we’ve heard before. While he said that he still believes in the workhorse ballcarrier, he added, “I don’t know how much money I’m committing to the running back after he plays out his rookie deal. It’s too hard to get a runner that can sustain his production after taking the pounding that comes with being the lead back in this league”.
Invoking Mike Tomlin, he concluded, “that’s why I believe in drafting a back early, riding him until the wheels fall off and grabbing another one right before his contract expires. It’s cruel, but that’s the approach that you have to take in today’s game”.
The Steelers already gave Bell over $12 million on the franchise tag last season. If pressed, Brooks would prefer to go the franchise tag route again “because it keeps the relationship going on a year-to-year basis” and “it keeps pressure on Bell to continue to produce at a high level”.
Ultimately, he wrote, “if I really had the ear of the Steelers’ brass, I would boldly suggest the team just let Bell walk”. He talked about the upcoming rookie class of running backs and pointed to recent successes, as well as James Conner, though moving from a known commodity to an unknown is always risky.
One wonders what the conversation would be like about Bell’s value if…well, if he would stop talking about his value. His own mouth has biased many against his ambitions in the court of public opinion.