It wasn’t so long ago that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Killer Bs were being talked about as the best set of triplets in the NFL, and perhaps had the potential to be one of the greatest of all time. The trio of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown, and running back Le’Veon Bell was doing incredible things for a period of a few years, but the band has already broken up and likely will continue to do so.
Brown is pushing to be traded. Bell already skipped the 2018 season and will soon hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career since being drafted by the Steelers in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. But have they closed the door on him?
That is what Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert was asked in the last hour during his press conference held at the NFL Scouting Combine. And he reiterated the same thing that he told local reporters a week ago after the headline-making announcement that they would not use any type of tag on him.
“We’re gonna leave that door open, as we do with all of our players”, he said, while acknowledging that he will indeed hit the open market. “When a player comes back to us after they’ve been on the market for a while, it’s usually a good environment because they know what’s out there for them. And if we can do something better for them, great”.
There are relevant examples to this point, of course. My favorite in recent memory would be the case of Ryan Clark, who nearly signed with the Miami Dolphins. He was even on his way to the Dolphins’ facility before he had a change of heart, phoned the Steelers, and worked out a deal to keep him in Pittsburgh.
While Colbert maintained that the team is open to the possibility of continuing to work with Bell—even after everything that they have gone through with him—however, he couldn’t deny the reality that they just had a Pro Bowl runner emerge in James Conner behind him, with rookie Jaylen Samuels looking like a possible contributor as well.
“But in the meantime, we had a young man named James Conner, and another names Jaylen Samuels, who stepped up and filled that position very well for us”, the general manager said. “So the kind of money that it may take to take a guy like Le’Veon off the market, and what it does to the remainder of what we’ll be able to do, we’ll balance that all out, but we’ll always leave that door open”.
I certainly have a hard time imagining the Steelers re-signing Bell in any circumstance that doesn’t involve the bottom of his market falling out. It’s very hard to sign a 27-year-old All-Pro running back to a huge deal when you have a Pro Bowler under contract for two more years on a rookie deal who got into the end zone 13 times in 13 games.
The door is open for Bell, but he’d better walk through quickly, lest it hit him you know where on the way out. Had Conner’s season gone differently, we might be having a different discussion today, but here we are, ready to embrace Bonner and BuBu as the new members of the Killer Bs (isn’t that right, Bince Williams?).