There probably aren’t too many left, though most of the starting offensive line would suffice. But those whose career overlapped with Le’Veon Bell’s during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers still remember him fondly, though I don’t know how many actually keep in touch with him.
Maurkice Pouncey did tell Gerry Dulac that he had texted with Bell last month in the aftermath of the Myles Garrett incident. Both he and fellow team captain Cameron Heyward made it abundantly clear, they have nothing against the former Steelers All-Pro running back, with whom they were teammates for five seasons from 2013 to 2017.
And, at least ostensibly, the 2018 season, even though he never showed up. And when he didn’t, Pouncey had some of the harshest things to say about him, after he had vouched for the running back and said that he knew him and knew that he would show up. But that’s water under the bridge now.
“I’m telling you — we love Le’Veon”, he told Dulac. “The outside world can think whatever they want, but everyone in this locker room loves and respects him. If he was still here, we’d be riding with him”.
As for head coach Mike Tomlin, when he was asked about his relationship with Bell, is simply said, “I have none”. It wasn’t meant as a shot or anything like that, but just a business-like matter of fact way of addressing the question.
Many of his former teammates likely have not seen Bell since shortly after the team’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2017 postseason. But there isn’t a great sense by any means that there is an animosity toward him, especially as cooler heads prevailed over the course of time.
There is every reason to believe that Bell will be embraced when he and his former teammates meet on the field on Sunday. Heyward did warn, however, that he won’t go easy on him when he’s tackling him, and he’ll let him know there’s another one coming.
Bell was a multiple-time first-team All-Pro during his five seasons in Pittsburgh, and he was a key figure in the revisioning and re-valuation of the running back position that we have seen take place in recent years, helping players like Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley land near the top of the draft.
He is not having the sort of season he wants, either statistically or with the Jets, but he did get what he was after, which is a good chunk of guaranteed money that gives him at least a couple years of security.