While the discussion over Le’Veon Bell and his future was one that had grown thin quite a long time ago, it officially became a dead issue at 4 PM yesterday. The only thing we really have left to determine, at least with regards to practical matters, is when the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2018 starting running back will show up.
In contrast to last season, Bell knows this time that he is eight months away from hitting unrestricted free agency. He knows that he will be playing for a 32-team field this season, whereas he likely was aware that it was probably going to be Pittsburgh or nobody in 2018 with the franchise tag still in play.
After the deadline passed, Bell Tweeted that he planned on having his best season to date. Yet even he knows that he got off to a slow start to his previous season because of the fact that he remained away during training camp and the preseason.
“He acknowledged, just about everybody in this acknowledged, that he had a very sluggish start”, Aditi Kinhkabwala reported yesterday. “Although he was in shape, he was not in football shape, and as you could see, his output was not nearly what it was the rest of the year”.
The deadline came and went w/out a long-term deal for Le’Veon Bell. But this story is not over… pic.twitter.com/j0eesWmaOy
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) July 17, 2018
More notably, she went on to say that she has already heard from both a coach and a teammate saying “they hope that Bell will show up sooner this year”. It’s no secret that many of his teammates were quite public about wanting him to sign a deal, even jokingly goading him on to reach an agreement.
Ramon Foster, the team’s starting left guard, was one of the primary culprits behind that. A year ago, as a number of players, coaches, and front office personnel reached new agreements, he photoshopped an image including Bell in a crying Michael Jordan face, with the newly-wealthy signees holding large bags of money.
After the deadline passed yesterday, he Tweeted a picture of himself and the rest of his starting offensive linemen all donning the Crying Jordan mug. “Gotta smile folks”, he wrote.
CURRENT MOOD. ????????????. Gotta smile folks pic.twitter.com/cDcGivc8Sq
— Ramon Foster (@RamonFoster) July 16, 2018
It’s clear that the love between Bell and his teammates is real. They are all in the same position and understand Bell taking care of his end of the business behind the sport. They don’t begrudge him trying to maximize his earning potential when the reality is that for the past two years, he has been offered contracts that averaged less than he would have made that season under the franchise tag.
There is still a remote, though unlikely possibility the Steelers will be able to re-sign Bell next year, even assuming that he does indeed hit the open market. General Manager Kevin Colbert has already declared that as their intention.
In the meantime, they are all just hoping that he actually makes an appearance early enough to get some work in before the regular season begins, in the hopes of avoiding the issues that they had a year ago.