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Win or lose, the Steelers are better off without Le’Veon Bell and his antics

For all of his talent, Le’Veon Bell has never proven to be the missing piece in Pittsburgh’s quest for a seventh Super Bowl title. Now that he’s taken to moving the goalposts still further in negotiations, it appears No. 26 also will be a non-factor in the team’s fortunes this season.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

In the unlikely event you ever get the urge to look up Le’Veon Bell’s whereabouts sometime in the distant future, it's a pretty safe bet you’ll be able to find him walking down Lover’s Lane holding his own hand. Despite being an uber-talented, multi-faceted NFL running back, Bell’s petrified narcissism makes him a nightmare for any organization that depends on patience and cooperation to succeed. Quite simply, Bell doesn’t play well with others because his own ego is so large, he seems incapable of seeing anyone else or their needs.

Bell’s tendency to focus intently on his own reflection, while ignoring the needs of others, has been well documented during his 5-year career with the Steelers. While I can’t speak for other U.S. cities, as a native of Pittsburgh, I can definitely say that Bell picked the wrong city for trying out his prima donna act. Pittsburghers are nothing if not hard-bitten and earthy to a fault. We’re not a community impressed by chest-beating or cheap stunts. Missouri might be the “show me” state, but Pittsburgh is the ultimate “show me” city. And what goes for the local population applies doubly to the Rooney family whose legendary patriarch forged one of the league’s most successful NFL franchises from the cold ashes of the Great Depression.

Whatever tricks you think you’ve got up your sleeve, the Steelers’ front office has seen them all before. And no matter how strong you think your bargaining position might be, you’ll never see the Steelers’ organization swooning over your portfolio. At the very outset, it’s best for a player to appreciate that he’s dealing with a group of tough professionals who know how to assess value and convert it into the coin of a championship season. That’s why absolutely the last thing a 26-year-old running back ought to attempt is to pull the chain of Steelers’ management.

But a narcissist such as Bell sees others strictly as the means for his own personal gratification. So unless you’re prepared to bow down and pay tribute to Bell’s exaggerated sense of importance, he’s really got no use for you whatsoever. Another key trait of the narcissist is having an extremely thin skin with regard to criticism. And it didn’t take too long for Bell to open himself up to those critical reviews when he got off to a rocky start with the Steelers’ fan base not long after he was selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Along with LeGarrette Blount, Bell was arrested for DUI and marijuana possession on their infamous drive to the airport heading for a 2014 preseason game with the Eagles in Philadelphia. The result was a 2-game suspension at the beginning of the 2015 season. Then, in 2016, Bell was suspended for three games at the start of the season for missing drug tests. So that made two consecutive years in which Bell had begun the season suspended by the league.

With Bell becoming a free agent in 2017, he turned down a reported $12 million per year contract offer from the Steelers which, at the time, was $4 million more than the second-highest-paid running back in the league, LeSean McCoy. Then Bell reported to training camp last year only a few days before Opening Day and, as a result, got off to a slow start.

During the most recent offseason, it became obvious that Bell’s negotiations with the Steelers weren’t making much progress, even though the team was once again prepared to offer him a contract substantially better than that of any other NFL running back. Bell didn’t help the negotiations by his public statements, Tweets and a rap-song recording that depicted himself as the victim of miserly owners and nasty fans.

Viewed in the context of the way Bell has always rolled, therefore, what’s happening now was entirely predictable and shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. This is a guy who apparently cannot deal with a world which doesn’t always buy into his glowing self-reflection or fails to beat a path to his door. When criticized, Bell tends to react more like a pouting teenager than a grown man.

But as Steelers Nation knows only too well, Pittsburgh is about as far removed from the Mamby-Pamby Land of multi-million-dollar contracts as it’s possible to be. Generally speaking, Pittsburghers and their working-class counterparts around the globe don’t give a rat’s patootie how great you think you are or how much money you feel you’re worth. In our eyes, the proof not only is in the playing, but also in the player’s overall demeanor and behavior. Along with Steelers’ management, the faithful of Steelers Nation have finely-tuned senses when it comes to — shall we say — BS. And despite his performance on the gridiron, many of us have been convinced for quite some time that this shoe definitely fits when it comes to Le’Veon Bell.

In fact, a pretty strong case can be made that the Steelers will be a better and more cohesive team in the long run by ridding themselves of a guy who seems to derive sadistic pleasure in toying with the front office and fan base alike from year to year. While it’s always beneficial to have a top RB on the field, both the Patriots and Eagles have been quite successful without ball-carriers worthy of the franchise tag. And with a QB like Ben Roethlisberger and his receivers, it’s not like anyone is really worrying or wondering what the team ever shall do once Bell leaves for good. Whether the Steelers make it all the way this season or not, they’ll ultimately benefit by losing the nagging downer effect of having the presence of “Mr. Sunshine” in their locker room.

We’ve seen this prima donna act before in Pittsburgh, and we’ve always sent it packing (bye-bye Santonio Holmes — so long Mike Wallace). Bell’s “me-first” mentality is diametrically opposed to everything the Steelers’ organization and standard represents. With that attitude, Pittsburgh would never have won even a single Lombardi trophy — let alone six. Bell’s shtick might play very well out in La-la Land or in some other far-flung province where they’ve never won a championship, but certainly never here in the City of Champions. Considering that his antics already have alienated practically the entire Pittsburgh sports community, it’s undoubtedly well past the time for Bell to start inflicting his bad vibes on some other NFL franchise and their unsuspecting fandom.