While the Pittsburgh Steelers and running back Le’Veon Bell ended up being probably fairly far apart on a deal in the end—in terms of fully guaranteed money, but I’m guessing not in overall value—that should not be construed as being the result of some friction or hostility between the two parties.
Though a new contract was not completed, the running back’s agent was highly complimentary of the Steelers as an organization. Adisa Bakari spoke on SiriusXM Radio yesterday to discuss his client’s contract status and the process of the offseason that took us to where we are now.
“Let me just say at the outset that both sides worked really hard to try to find that sometimes elusive middle ground”, he began in response to the first question posed to him. “The Steelers, and I still maintain, the Steelers organization is still one of the best and first-rate organizations in football. They value their players as people and not just fungible assets that can be replaced in and out”.
This is one thing that we have read time and time again, a trait that the Steelers have held from the top down since Art Rooney founded the team in 1933. In fact, he was often knocked for focusing too much on the ‘people’ and not enough on the ‘players’, which is why the team struggled until his son, Dan Rooney took on more day-to-day responsibilities.
“Both sides gave every effort to make a long-term contract, and we just came up a little short”, Bakari said when asked how close they were to a deal. “How close we were? I don’t know. I think if you ask us you’ll get an answer and if you ask the folks in Pittsburgh you may get a different answer. I don’t know”.
There have been some suggestions that the two sides were actually closer to a deal a year ago, even with a lower total value on the contract offered, than they were this time around. Negotiations went down to the final minute in 2017, but this year, it was understood by noon that there was an impasse that would not be overcome.
“We both had issues and concerns that we couldn’t quite frankly relent. We made some concessions on both sides”, Bell’s agent said. “There was a level where we decided we weren’t willing to go beyond and there was a level that the organization wouldn’t move beyond, and so we ended up where we ended up”.
Still, Bakari left the negotiating process with no foul taste in his mouth. He understands that the Steelers negotiate their contracts in ways that are different from most teams, lacking more true guarantees, even though they are one of the top teams in the league in terms of actually paying out their contracts.
“The folks in Pittsburgh are phenomenal. From the coaching staff to the personnel all the way to the owners and the Rooney family, what they’ve done for the sport and away from the sport, again, it speaks for itself”, he concluded regarding his experiences negotiating with the Steelers. “This is a great, first-rate shop”.