Le’Veon Bell was one of the best running backs in the NFL during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He appeared in the Pro Bowl three times and was named first-team All-Pro twice, all in the span of his first five seasons. Then came the contract dispute, holdout, and eventual move to the New York Jets for the 2019 season. Despite all the issues that led to Bell’s departure, it’s evident that he still has a lot of love for the city of Pittsburgh and the Steelers organization.
Bell, appearing on the Steel Here podcast with Kevin Adams and Jersey Jerry, offered thoughts on a lot of different topics, including where he stands with his NFL career after not playing during the 2022 season.
“I never really officially retired,” said Bell, who played five games with the Baltimore Ravens and three with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2021. “On the day when I do retire, it’s going to be with Pittsburgh. I’m going to try to retire with Pittsburgh. But before I do that, I might be like, hey bro, let me get a couple of carries in the preseason so I can show y’all.”
That would certainly cause a stir, the return of a running back who was such an integral part of the Steelers before the contract negotiations went so far south that he left town. In five seasons, Bell averaged 4.3 yards per carry with 5,336 yards on the ground and 35 rushing touchdowns. He was a premier dual-threat running back and he had 312 receptions for 2,660 yards and seven receiving touchdowns in the same time period. When the Steelers made the playoffs in 2016 and 2017, Bell averaged 5.2 yards per carry across four games with 424 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. In the air, he had 13 receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown as well.
While that’s all well and good, Bell hasn’t played for the Steelers in six seasons and didn’t play at all last season. Just how much juice could he still have in the tank? On one hand, Bell only had 39 carries for 101 yards and two touchdowns in eight games during the 2021 season while catching the ball five times for 30 yards and one touchdown. In fact, since he left Pittsburgh, his impact in the running game decreased drastically. However, considering that didn’t play last season, it’s entirely possible that he could be fresh.
Now part of the reason that Bell didn’t play last season was his desire to start a boxing career. He has appeared in three fights, the first an exhibition match against former NFL running back Adrian Peterson that Bell won with a fifth-round knockout. He lost his first professional fight against Uriah Hall, a former UFC fighter, before picking up his first pro win in April.
Interestingly, Bell believes that boxing has actually rejuvenated him rather than wearing him down.
“You should be waking up energized, energetic every day. That’s how I am. I ain’t gonna lie, I think boxing really helped me out. Just in a sense of getting my body. Right now I’m walking around like 210 [pounds]. I would be so blazing if I was to hit the field right now…I just ain’t really thought about playing football.
“I’ve still got so much juice. I might even, I don’t know, we’ll see what I do with Pittsburgh or something. I just might come back for a preseason game or something, just to show people I got juice… I run 4.4 right now.”
So why hasn’t Bell tried to make a return prior to now? He’s only 31 years old and he missed two seasons for reasons other than injuries. He’s played in 96 total games over eight seasons. If he truly is as healthy and energetic as he says he is, why couldn’t he be a depth option who can catch the ball? The reason he hasn’t attempted to return to the NFL, Bell said, is that his focus has simply been elsewhere.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” Bell said. “I’ve been boxing, I’ve been fighting, but it’s like now we’ve been talking football. I’m thinking if I go to Miami and start training a little bit, I might have to just step into an OTA and let me get my little football skills back because physically this is the best I’ve ever felt.”
So whether Bell does attempt a comeback or simply wants to make retirement official, he still has plenty of love for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Revealing and entertaining, be sure to check out the entire interview between Bell and the Steel Here podcast below.