Le’Veon Bell needs to call (or maybe he’d prefer to tweet) Mike Wallace.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are not unfamiliar with egotistical stars that have overvalued their worth, and try to move on to greener pastures. Mike Wallace also looked for those pastures. He found fields of green in free agency. Fortunately for him, they were green with the dollar bills he desired. But, unfortunately for him, they turned out to be burnt-out lawns.
And, soon, that money dried up, too. Back to Wallace’s story in a moment.
Le’Veon Bell’s holdout is perplexing in many ways. He’s leaving lottery-winning amounts of money on the table every week, all while supposedly preserving his body for his big payday next season. He surely wanted the Steelers to struggle without him…showing his worth to the NFL world.
While the Steelers are not off to a sterling start, they seem to be getting their footing for a Super Bowl push, sans Bell. Worse for Bell, James Conner has been, at times, fantastic. He catches the ball better than advertised, and scores TDs in numbers that Bell never did.
Conner looks the part.
The Steelers’ slow start is due to defensive deficiencies, not offensive. Nobody is blaming Conner for the team’s hiccups this season. Bell misplayed his hand so far, lost generational amounts of money, and he still needs to return this season and play to become a free agent next season. So, who says he doesn’t get hurt on his first carry after he comes back?!
This is a gladiator sport where players go down constantly.
Okay, so maybe he does stay healthy playing rest of season. And, he does preserve the wear-and-tear on his body he so feared. It is still easy to suggest Le’Veon Bell may not get the amount he’s looking for next season. The Steelers and Conner proved him replaceable. Will NFL teams not take notice of that fact?
But, okay, this is the NFL, and certain teams seem to always overpay. Perhaps Le’Veon Bell gets his big payday, being paid as both a RB and WR, at 17 mil/yr or so.
So, let’s look into a crystal ball. If he does get his overinflated, self-assessed value, you’ll one day likely read the sports headline:
(Insert team name here) want Bell to accept pay cut, or be cut.
This is the same thing that happened to Mike Wallace with the Dolphins after two seasons when he fled the “cheap” Steelers. (Forget that the Dolphins also overpaid for Brandon Marshall and Ndamukong Suh, and let them loose, too! We’ll stick with Wallace’s story here. Like I said, the NFL is littered with stories like these.)
Contracts are not guaranteed in the NFL. When players go for those ultimate dollar deals, they almost always get cut a short time later if they don’t agree to lower their contract price. Besides QBs, precious few live them out. The Steelers were smart, letting Wallace walk for his huge contract, and signing the cheaper Antonio Brown to a nice-sized, but workable, contract. You never saw the Steelers ask Antonio Brown to lower his contract, right? Because it was a sensible contract that was affordable but still allowing Brown to do well, too.
Antonio Brown would end up playing out his contract with a HOF quarterback in Big Ben. Roethlisberger makes WRs look better than they are, that is what great QBs do. Don’t forget that even Nate Washington turned his Pittsburgh career with Ben tossing him the ball into big bucks with Tennessee! Nate was Mike Wallace before Mike Wallace. Like Wallace (and even Brown), Ben makes these players look better than they are.
Just as the Steelers’ top-notch offensive line, HOF quarterback, and HOF wide receiver make Bell better. With All-Pros in the passing game, Bell rarely sees 8-in-the-box behind his talented line.
But, back to Wallace.
He overvalued himself, as did many pundits such as ESPN analyst and HOF receiver Chris Carter. Carter suggested that Wallace was an irreplaceable, impact player. This was generally believed throughout the NFL. The Dolphins, most experts said, got a stud in Wallace. Pittsburgh should not have let him walk.
Wallace went on to pedestrian seasons with multiple clubs after leaving Pittsburgh (Ben). Suddenly, Wallace had his passes in Miami flung to him by Ryan Tannehill, and the Chris Carters of the world forgot about him.
Had he stayed in Pittsburgh, his numbers would be inflated and he’d still be thought of as an elite receiver. Tethered to Ben Roethlisberger for the last 5 seasons would have changed his career trajectory. Most likely, he would have signed another impressive but fair contract – the same thing the Steelers offered him before.
Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald wrote on 2/19/15: “I believe the Dolphins want to pay Wallace to his performance level rather than his potential performance level, which is what they paid for when they signed him as a free agent in 2013.” He adds: “The point is Wallace wasn’t top 5 in anything except his salary.”
Hello, Le’Veon Bell, this is your likely future. A humble ending to a unhumble man.