While there are many names within the national media who attempt to speak on behalf of Le’Veon Bell, few of them actually have any intimate knowledge of his situation with the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, one exception to that statement might be NFL Network analyst and former Jacksonville Jaguars’ running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Having had the same agent as Bell and also one of his friends with whom he speaks fairly regularly, Jones-Drew probably has had more contact with the Steelers’ absentee running back than anybody else in the organization in recent weeks. If we assume his insights have more value than most, then his appearance as a guest on the Rich Eisen Show revealed some telling information about Bell’s current thought processes.
Perhaps his most interesting revelation was his take on why Bell didn’t show up for the start of the season. As Eisen observed in his opening question, his agent, Adisa Bakari, had always implied the plans for his client would closely follow the way he had approached the 2017 season when playing under the franchise tag, barring something exceptional happening. When it became obvious Bell wasn’t going to arrive in Pittsburgh for opening day, Bakari appeared on a radio show suggesting something out of the ordinary must have occurred to change his client’s mind, but no answer was ever given to questions about what that incident was.
Jones-Drew did his best to explain what this exceptional circumstance had been when speaking with Eisen, and it turns out Bell’s continued absence is not inspired by only one event.
“I think it was the Todd Gurley contract. I think it then was, after that, the players speaking out. I think it then was, after that, seeing David Johnson’s contract.”
With Johnson signing a three year deal that included a $30 million guarantee and Gurley a four year extension with potentially as much as $45 million guaranteed, Jones-Drew is clearly voicing Bell’s displeasure when he noted the level of guarantees the Steelers were offering.
“The Steelers were offering Le’Veon $19 million guaranteed. I don’t think that’s a real good number when you see David Johnson signing for a three year deal for $30 and Todd signs a $45 million deal. That becomes what we call disrespect.”
It’s worth noting that $19 million is a much lower figure than the $33 million in guarantees reported in July, when Pittsburgh made their last offer to Bell. But perhaps Jones-Drew is referring to the signing bonus amount the Steelers offered him and a number more in line with the figure expected.
Citing James Conner’s 37 touches in Week 1 as proof his friend was right to sit out, Jones-Drew was quick to explain Bell’s continual appearances on TMZ’s website as a consequence of being a “music artist” doing “other things.” Claiming Bell was still training, despite how he looked when last filmed in Miami, laughably, Eisen concurred, adding that he “looks great.”
Jones-Drew’s suggestion that he wouldn't show up until Week 11 if he was in Bell’s shoes gives a fairly strong indication that this is probably his friend’s intention too, but it seems clear that Pittsburgh should see their star runner return by then, if Jones-Drew really is repeating what Bell has already told him.
While we’re wary of putting too much stock in the words of an analyst from the NFL Network, much of what Jones-Drew said appears to fit with decisions Bell has made to this point. And if the Steelers’ running back is listening to the advice coming for the former NFL back, it seems obvious his holdout will not be ending anytime soon either.