It was announced earlier today that Le’Veon Bell’s appeal of his four-game suspension will only lead to a reduction of that suspension to three games, instead of eliminating the suspension as some had hoped.
That means that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be without their starting running back for the first three games of the season again in 2016, just as they were in 2015, and can expect him to be ready after they face the Philadelphia Eagles when they face the Kansas City Chiefs in their week four matchup.
Bell’s looming suspension has made for one of the bigger side-stories of training camp and the Steelers’ offseason, next to Antonio Brown’s contract situation, and has been somewhat of a distraction. Despite this being his second suspension, the team’s general manager, Kevin Colbert, says that the team still supports Bell in his official statement from the team.
“We are disappointed Le’Veon Bell has been suspended three games to start the 2016 season,” Colbert said. “We will continue to support Le’Veon, but we acknowledge this mistake has put the team in an unfortunate position. We will continue to work with Le’Veon to help him eliminate distractions in his life so he can reach his full potential as a member of our community as well as a player for the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
None of this statement is surprising, but it contributes to the narrative moving forward on where Bell stands with the team. If he’s going to be a key player that gets a major contract signing when his rookie contract expires after this season, the team has to feel comfortable that he won’t bring these problems in the future.
In his three seasons so far, Bell has yet to play a full sixteen games; he missed three due to injury is rookie season, was lost to injury in the end of the 2014 season and was suspended for the beginning of the 2015 season before he would eventually be lost to injury for the year after he returned.
Colbert and the Rooneys are going to keep all of this in mind when negotiations are open. It is obvious that the organization does not want to lose a player with the talent that Bell has, but it has also shown in the past that talent does not outweigh distractions in the long run. Once Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes had his third suspension, he was traded for a low pick to the New York Jets. The team has also let other players go due to their problems off the field, such as Cedrick Wilson, Chris Rainey and Alameda Ta’Amu.
Bell is not at that point yet, but another mistake would doom his chances of staying with the team. The only thing that can help his cause to earn a major contract with Pittsburgh now would be for him to put on an amazing year and lead the team to a Super Bowl berth. Considering the team has not had a running back who started the season on the roster for any of its last three playoff games, it may be a huge help to his cause if he can be there for the postseason and is a significant contributor.