It’s easy to feel as though the Pittsburgh Steelers’ championship window is closing, and with it comes added pressure to win the Super Bowl at every opportunity. Even the most optimistic fans of Mason Rudolph understand that he at least needs to be seen on the field before anointing him a champion-ship caliber quarterback that will keep the Steelers in the Super Bowl hunt year after year.
The key to the team’s fortunes lies primarily on the offensive side of the ball, with the Killer Bs—generally, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown, and running back Le’Veon Bell. Some included wide receiver Martavis Bryant in there, but either way, he isn’t anymore.
That he is gone is just a reminder of how short the shelf-life of this trio could be though. Most seem to expect that Bell will not sign a long-term deal, which means he will likely sign elsewhere in free agency in 2019. So that means 2018 is their best chance of winning unless something changes.
Without a contract, though, Bell is not going to show up until a week before the season starts as he did last year. Everybody knows it. Bell has talked about it. General Manager Kevin Colbert has talked about it. Roethlisberger has talked about it.
Roethlisberger also recently talked about the fact that the offense struggled at the start of last season and he couldn’t help but wonder how much of that was due to the fact that their running back had hardly been with them at all during the offseason.
Asked about Bell’s contract status, the quarterback seemed to express some pessimism about it getting done and what that would mean. “I hope we see him sooner than later. I know that if it is later, then we’re going to have to be better than we were at the beginning of last year”, he told his hosts.
“I think we were definitely slow-starting, whether it was lack of continuity of the group because he wasn’t there, whatever it was. I know that if it is a long time until he shows up, we need to be better early in the season”.
He was then asked if training camp practices were really important to that process. He really struggled to give a positive answer by the tone of his voice, perhaps realizing that he himself often doesn’t do much in such practices, but noted it is valuable for running backs.
“I do. I think that they’re important for a guy like a runner, where a line kind of needs to know how he’s going to react, the way he runs, his style”, the quarterback said, but added that the Steelers’ offensive linemen “know Le’Veon, he’s been around. It’s not like he’s a young gun”.
Nevertheless, “I think that helps in that sense, just to have that camp time together with everybody”, he concluded. Of course his hopes won’t change anything. Bell’s teammates both talked and joked about how they needed him to show up, but he didn’t show up until he had to. Not that they blamed him from a personal business sense.
But they saw the results on the field in hindsight. I’m sure Roethlisberger isn’t the only one hoping to avoid a similar start.