Raise your hand if you expected to be talking about Le’Veon Bell playing this season when you woke up today. I know I didn’t. But that is evidently his plan, to report around the Pittsburgh Steelers’ bye week and play, according to ESPN.
That doesn’t mean the Steelers are entirely happy. According to Adam Schefter, the Steelers are still planning to pursue a trade for the running back if one of reasonable value could be worked out from another team.
This is the first time in recent memory that I can recall that the team is actively looking to move a valuable player, and based on their recent comments, it seems to be a decision that is not based entirely on business.
Even after Bell failed to report for the season opener, the team still maintained that it was not going to rescind the franchise tag, nor was there any talk about even listening to trade offers from other teams. Now they are getting what they wanted—him reporting—and are still looking to trade him.
Their desire to make a trade, however, doesn’t make it significantly more likely that it would happen, because they are still looking to get value out of it. A recent report had their asking price at a second-round pick and a quality player.
That’s not to say that their asking price cannot be lowered. The Seattle Seahawks were reportedly about to lower their asking price for Earl Thomas before the All-Pro safety suffered a season-ending leg injury on Sunday, for example.
It’s hard to imagine the Steelers, in the best-case scenario, getting back anything better than a third-round pick or a ‘good player’, however, and even that would surprise me. But then again, the team’s continued interest in trading him surprises me a bit. And the Martavis Bryant trade really surprised me, even if we saw clearly in hindsight why it was such a bad idea to give up a third-round pick for him.
One thing that I will say is that a hypothetical trade has taken some major steps forward compared to where we were a month ago. The Steelers seem to want to trade him if they can get a good offer for him. And we now know—or hope we know—that Bell is ultimately going to sign the tag and report.
Once he signs the tag, there’s nothing Bell can do to block a trade from happening. And if he shows an displays a willingness to play and put forth full effort for the final 10 games of the season, that may raise the price another team is willing to pay for him.
Do I think a trade is going to happen? Absolutely not, but I have to admit it’s gotten a lot less far-fetched than it once was, and I’ve been surprised more than once during this whole saga.