The Steelers’ 53-man roster might be set for now, but it’s far from a finished product. One obvious omission is Le’Veon Bell, who has yet to sign his franchise tag. Not knowing when Bell is going to show up will definitely affect the Steelers’ preparation for Week 1, but in what’s now his sixth season in the NFL, an unconventional Week 1 is what’s expected from Bell at this point.
This is now the fourth straight season where Le’Veon Bell hasn’t been on the initial 53-man roster. Last year, Bell didn’t sign his contract until Monday of Week 1. The Steelers received a roster exemption for Bell in 2017, and they activated him on Saturday before their Sunday game against the Browns. Although he reported on Friday September 1st, Bell didn’t sign the tender until after the initial 53-man roster was released. In that Week-1 game against Cleveland, Bell rushed for 32 yards on 10 carries for an unimpressive 3.2-yard average per rush, along with three receptions for 15-yards.
In both 2015 and 2016, Bell began the season with a suspension. The 2015 suspension stemmed from his 2014 arrest for possession of marijuana and DUI. The following year, Le’Veon once again had to serve a suspension, this time due to missing a drug test with the league. As a rookie in 2013, Bell was on the active roster but was injured and didn’t play until Week 4 against the Vikings in London.
The 2014 season has been the most normal start for Bell, yet it wasn’t without controversy. It was on Wednesday, August 21, 2014, when Bell and LeGarrette Blount, along with a third passenger, were stopped and arrested for possession of marijuana and DUI as they were traveling to catch the team flight for their preseason game against the Eagles. The arrest and pending suspension loomed over the team for some time, making for another dramatic situation during Week 1. Bell did turn in a solid performance of 109 yards on 21 carries and 1 TD in the game, with a 5.2 ]-yard average per rush along with six receptions for 88 yards.
Unfortunately, this season Bell didn’t report on Friday after the final preseason game. It’s unclear if he’ll even be active in Week 1, and odds of that happening are certainly slim at this point. Regardless, it would be unwise to expect a lot of production from him right out of the gate due to a re-run of the ever-present drama that Steelers Nation has come to expect from Bell during Week 1 of the regular season.