2018 Offseason Questions: Does Gurley Deal Help Or Hurt Steelers With Bell?

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: Does Todd Gurley’s deal help or hurt the Steelers’ prospects of re-signing Le’Veon Bell?

The Steelers were unable to agree to terms on a long-term deal with Le’Veon Bell for, at least by one report, $15 million per season. The Los Angeles Rams did manage to get Todd Gurley to agree to a long-term extension averaging $15 million per season in new money.

And so that makes Gurley the first domino to fall in berthing the new top tier for the running back market, which is substantially, substantially higher than the second tier in the $8 million per season range that the likes of LeSean McCoy and Devonta Freeman call home.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing for the Steelers? Now that the table is set, is it easier for them to serve a better offer? Or have they already put forth their best possible offer, at least in terms of guaranteed figures?

Pittsburgh’s brass have said that they have every intention of continuing to attempt to reach an agreement with Bell up to the point that he signs with somebody else, but, again, they have had two years of chances to get something done without it happening.

Now another team has gotten a running back signed to a roughly similar contract at least in terms of average annual salary. There’s a possibility that David Johnson will also sign a deal before Bell hits the open market in 2019.

We don’t know the final details of Gurley’s deal, nor the concrete facts of Bell’s so it’s hard to really compare them in terms of the sort of security each offers. The Steelers have a long history of paying their own players, and as Ian Whetstone has pointed out, they’ve never not paid at least the first two years on a long-term deal signed by one of their own, even in situations involving injuries in the first year. And two years is the low end. Their pay rate is second to none.

How much does that matter to Bell? Does he think Gurley’s contract is something he can better on the open market? And again, part of that discussion depends on learning the final details of Gurley’s deal.

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