It’s too early to tell whether or not running back Le’Veon Bell burned any bridges with his teammates on the Pittsburgh Steelers when he failed to show up for practice yesterday when they expected him to, though it’s pretty clear he’s done some damage.
The thing it, it could have pretty easily been avoided. Every professional player understands that every other player has to go about their business and look out for themselves. That is why you don’t see players commenting on their teammates’ contract status. Bell made himself an exception yesterday, and for one simple reason: he wasn’t upfront about it.
Team captain Maurkice Pouncey, one of Bell’s most trusted blockers, said it best. As he told Jim Wexell yesterday in the locker room, all he had to do was keep his teammates in the loop about what he was going to do and they would have understood. They might not have agreed, but that would have respected the decision.
“Unless you want to come out and say as a man, ‘Hey I’m going to miss the first 10 weeks. It really sucks for my teammates but I have to do this. It’s a business decision.’ If you come out and say that, then you know what? As men in here we can all respect that”, Pouncey told 247Sports.
“But to play hide and go seek, and no one knows what the hell’s going on, like, you can’t communicate? What the hell?”, he asked rhetorically. “We’re way older than that. There’s no point in not communicating it”.
And that is the gravest misstep that Bell has taken throughout this entire process. There wasn’t even this much frustration after James Harrison, recently released after being a disgruntled employee last season, signed with the New England Patriots and played it up afterward.
“I just felt confident that he was going to come, but now that he didn’t, it’s obviously Le’Veon over the Steelers, and we’re the Steelers and we’re going to play as the Steelers”, Pouncey told the media, adding that it’s now “bigger than business”.
“It’s always better to speak your own opinions about things, and obviously when you don’t say nothing at all, people have judgement, and rightfully so”. Ramon Foster said he should “at least have the courtesy, at least say something”.
Trai Essex never played with Bell, his last season with the Steelers being in 2011, but he spent seven years with the team and eight in the league altogether. He knows what the locker room is like, and he knows how the offensive line in particular works.
“All you gotta do is communicate and keep it real with your Oline and they will have your back thru everything”, he Tweeted yesterday. “They aren’t mad because he’s holding out. They are mad because he’s holding out and they are finding out thru the media the same time we are”.
Bell could have literally reached the same decision and had everyone on the team have his back through it if he’d simply handled this differently. Why he went this way, I have no idea.