The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.
Question: Is showing up at all to training camp even a consideration for Le’Veon Bell as part of his plan to have his ‘best season’ yet?
Yesterday was the day for something to get done. Otherwise nothing would. We know how that turned out by now, and so we move on. For the second year in a row, we enter a holding pattern with Le’Veon Bell.
There is a much greater sense of finality this time around, however. Both sides know that a third franchise tag is out of the question unless Bell converts to quarterback and suddenly becomes very good at it. It’s simply prohibitively expensive, the average value of the top five quarterback salaries.
So even much more than last season, Bell realizes that 2019 will be different. He will have unrestricted free agency if he simply opts to have it. The Steelers cannot block his path. And so he knows more than ever what is at stake.
He Tweeted after the 4PM deadline that he intends to have his ‘best season to date’, though he was much less efficient last season. Even he previously admitted that the slow start he had in 2017 may have been tied to the fact that he did not have an offseason with the team.
So has he learned from last season? What has he taken away from the experiences of 2017? Where on his list of priorities is producing the best statistics he can in 2018 in order to make himself as attractive as possible to potential suitors in the offseason?
There was a report earlier yesterday—more accurately, speculation—that he could hold out into the season this year. That seems thoroughly unlikely. While still unlikely, I think it’s more probable that he would actually show up to training camp than that he would extend his holdout into the season.
One of his priorities, of course, is staying healthy. He has only completed two of his five seasons healthy, and 2017 was his first such since his rookie year.
But protecting himself by being conservative is also at odds with his stated intention of having his best year. And he knows that skipping training camp is also at odds with that. So is there even a realistic chance that he shows?