2018 was supposed to be the year of the Killer Bs for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Expected to be the last season with the core group of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown, and running back Le’Veon Bell all together, they never got a chance to take the field as Bell chose not to report after he and the team failed to reach a deal for a long-term contract.
Bell has been the most prolific player in NFL history up to this point in his career based on the amount of yards per game that he has accumulated through five seasons. When on the field, he has been an essential piece of the Steelers’ offense, in the running game and the passing game, as both a receiver and a blocker.
Pittsburgh was expecting to have him all along, right up until they suddenly didn’t. Even right down to the deadline for the last possible day that he could report, some of his teammates were still not sure whether or not he would show up.
That was a subject that Bell’s former teammates had to deal with on a weekly basis, with members of the media asking players about the subject and what their thoughts are. At the same time, they tried to answer questions on the field with James Conner, and then later in the year with Jaylen Samuels.
Roethlisberger made an appearance on 93.7 The Fan yesterday in a wide-ranging interview, and the Bell question was brought up at one point, he was asked about how much his absence hurt the team both on and off the field, and if it was more than they expected.
“Well, yeah, I mean it hurts when you don’t have one of the better players in the game”, he said, “but I think the biggest thing that hurt us is just the distraction. You know, that was such a big thing that we had to deal with every single week. I think, on a positive note, I think what we got to see from James Conner and Jaylen Samuels, I think we got to see some guys really coming into their own and get a glimpse of their future. So I was actually really encouraged with what we saw without Le’Veon there”.
It goes without saying the Bell will not be in Pittsburgh in 2019, but Conner and Samuels—and likely another running back—will be as well. None of them are due for new contracts, so hopefully we should have a quiet offseason at the position for the first time in several years.