Player: Le’Veon Bell
Position: Running Back
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2018 Salary Cap Hit: $0
2017-8 Season Breakdown:
Well, for obvious reasons this one is a bit trickier to write than it normally would be, given the fact that the player in question not only never played during the season but was never even in the building or formally under contrast for the 2018 season.
Running back Le’Veon Bell was a first-team All-Pro performer during the 2017 season, putting up nearly 2000 yards from scrimmage with 11 touchdowns, doing so after coming off a groin injury, while playing under the franchise tag.
After skipping all of the offseason after he and the Steelers failed to work out a long-term contract ahead of the July deadline Bell did not report for the season until six days prior to the opener, and he struggled through the first several games, but he did gradually find his footing and had a strong season.
His first big game of the season came against the Ravens, rushing for nearly 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and adding another 42 receiving yards. This was the game that signaled he was back and still capable of being the same player that got him franchise tagged for over $12 million for the season.
In fact, he rushed for over 130 yards in three of the four games beginning with that one, with a season-high 179 against the Chiefs. But the truth is that through much of the season, his yardage was about grinding out real estate. That only really began to change toward the end of the year. He averaged over 4.5 yards per attempt over the final five weeks, and that only brought his average up to 4.0.
He also had a great run as a pass-catcher late in the year. During one three-game span, he caught 26 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns.
It was the postseason game that stood out though. While he did not get a lot of carries, he ran well—when there was blocking, as he was blown up when there wasn’t—but he especially caught the ball well, with nine receptions for 88 yards and a spectacular touchdown reception.
But of course the same thing happened in 2018 as it did in 2017. No terms were reached on a long-term deal, so Bell stayed away. Only this time he continued to stay away. And then some more. And then some more. And then he arrived in Pittsburgh just before the deadline to report—and then never showed up. So he was never a part of the team, and has largely ostracized himself from his teammates.
Free Agency Outlook:
For some odd reason, there are reports that the Steelers are weighing the possibility of placing the transition tag on Bell, which wouldn’t be astronomical given what they were willing to pay him for one season a year ago.
Doing so could help them facilitate a trade, but the odds of that happening are slim. I can’t remember the last transition tag player who got traded, in part because teams who sign transition players to deals don’t have to give up any compensation to do so.
I really can’t imagine the Steelers going back to Bell, not after James Conner had a Pro Bowl year and with how he acted. He will probably get a contract similar to what Pittsburgh offered him last year, only will more full guarantees, and we’ll all move on.