Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: Le’Veon Bell
Stock Value: Down
Evaluation Type: Major, Moderate-Term
Reason: No New Contract, Skipping Training Camp
Yes, it’s the Le’Veon Bell Day, and understandably so. Bell likely increased his real-world stock value in terms of his profits by declining the Steelers’ five-year, $70 million deal he was reportedly offered yesterday. Barring an unlikely outcome in 2018, he should be able to find a deal better than that on the open market eight months from now.
I’m not interested in eight months from now, though. I’m interested in two months from now, which is almost how long we will likely have to wait before he shows up to the team for the first time in 2018. Because he does not have a long-term contract, he is expected to skip training camp and the preseason as he did last year. And with that will likely come another slow start. Even he acknowledged during the season a year ago that his sluggish numbers during the first month or so of the season might be attributed to the fact that he was not in training camp.
So the lack of a contract—a hit to his stock with the Steelers as it is—also has a ripple effect in resulting in his play suffering as a result of actions he will take based on that deal not getting done. As is frequently invoked, the only way to get into football shape is to do football things. No matter how diligently Bell might work on his own, he is not playing football.
It seems as though we are looking at one last hurrah for Bell in Pittsburgh for the 2018 season, before he finds a new home that will make him wealthier than he would be able to find here. And that one last season will probably be marked, as last year’s was, by struggles at the beginning of the year.
Still, I think most people are just relieved that there is some closure. With a deal not getting done, the safe presumption is that he is going to hit the open market in March of 2019, and chances are the Steelers are not going to be the highest bidder for his services. They made their offer. He didn’t take it.