So Le’Veon Bell posted something on social media yesterday and it didn’t go over too well. Wash, rinse, repeat at this point, right? How often does he say anything at this point that doesn’t get a large portion of Pittsburgh Steelers fans rolling their eyes and washing their hands of him anew?
There is still a large number of fans that hold out hope for the Steelers managing somehow to trade him for a high draft pick, or even simply rescinding his franchise tag, even though there are no notable free agents on which to spend that not-gonna-happen windfall.
But the truth is that the sentiment he expressed, for better or worse, isn’t wrong. No, as Alex Kozora pointed out, it’s not going to help him win fans over, but his observation itself is correct. For many in Pittsburgh, the first-team All-Pro running back has worn out his welcome.
That is primarily his own doing, of course. It’s hard to feel much sympathy for a player with a suspension and injury history who wants to single-handedly reset a market overnight that would typically take a cycle of players over a period of years to rebuild.
It doesn’t help when you rap to your fans about how you have certain contract demands that if not met will result in you leaving for another city. Not only is it is something that is beyond the average fan’s conception to even fathom $17 million a year, it’s something that they have no power over. It conveys the inference that the city isn’t worthy, and triggers the ‘if you don’t like it, leave’ response.
And that is truly where many Steelers fans are at this point with Bell, even though the reality is that he isn’t going anywhere for a while, and neither is his contract situation. As General Manager Kevin Colbert talked about recently, the discussions toward a long-term deal are not dead, but they are on hiatus while the draft is being plotted out.
The contract negotiations are going to drag on through the middle of July. And then his absence will be a present focus until the start of the regular season. And then his performance in the first several games will be under great scrutiny because he missed all of the offseason.
We know this, because we’ve already lived it once. Sure, maybe there’s a slight chance of a long-term deal still being worked out, but that doesn’t seem likely if his reported parameters for a deal are true, expecting to make $17 million a year or with a large percentage of the contract guaranteed.
The bottom line is this. Bell has become a villain in Pittsburgh for many, but it is a villain’s origin story that he has he has written himself. A debate can be had over whether or not it’s fair, but it’s true in any case. Bell’s frustrations over how he is perceived in his own city are real, fair, and accurate. But he is the one who provided the foundation for building up that villainous caricature.