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Steelers News: Remembering Le’Veon Bell’s awesome, and crazy, time with the Steelers

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Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Divisional Round - Jacksonville Jaguars v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look back at the Le’Veon Bell era in Pittsburgh. There were amazing plays, suspensions, questionable decisions off the field and one polarizing trip from start to finish.

Let’s get to the news:

Joe Starkey: ‘We need volunteers, not hostages’ — the Steelers’ wild ride with Le’Veon Bell

By: Joe Starkey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A promising football courtship began the day Mike Tomlin fell for a bruising running back from Michigan State.

Ron Hughes, the Steelers’ director of amateur scouting at the time, told me two years ago Tomlin was clearly the point man on Le’Veon Bell going into the 2013 draft.

“Mike loved Le’Veon Bell,” said Hughes, who passed away earlier this month. “We all liked Le’Veon. He still isn’t fast, but he had a little bit of Franco [Harris] in him and a unique quickness to him. He can stop, make a plant and go.

“You’d like to think we were really smart, but we took him in the second round.”

They were really smart, because they passed up Eddie Lacy — a popular choice with many — and took Bell 48th overall (Lacy went 13 picks later to Green Bay). Tomlin’s master plan called for Bell to drop weight and take up full-time residence in the Steelers’ backfield for a decade or so.

The marriage wasn’t perfect, but it worked — for better, for worse, in Vontaze Burfict and in health. It flourished at times. But then, like many, it began to fall apart over money.

It ultimately unraveled in a bitter divorce.

Last we heard Tomlin say anything substantive on Bell, it was characterizing the latter’s contract dispute this way: “We need volunteers, not hostages.”

General manager Kevin Colbert delivered the annulment Wednesday, saying the team would allow Bell to become a free agent. Le’Veon responded as only Le’Veon might, with a tweet quoting Martin Luther King — “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty I am free at last.”

We’ll see if Bell finds the fully guaranteed money he’s looking for. In the meantime, we are tasked with finding his place in franchise history.

Where does he belong among the short list of great running backs?

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)

Ed Bouchette: Antonio Brown could leave all his baggage in Pittsburgh

By: Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It is quite understandable that Kevin Colbert repeatedly said at his Wednesday interview that the Steelers would not give Antonio Brown away in a trade.

What was he supposed to say? We’ll take anything for him, even a bag of footballs, inflated or not?

Admitting that would have driven the Steelers’ return for Brown further down than the receiver already cost them in his actions, tweets, rants and elliptical manifesto. No smiling photo with Art Rooney II can erase all that in a potential suitor’s mind.

What Colbert did not specify is what the Steelers would accept in return for Brown. Would they take a second-round draft choice? A third? A fourth and fifth? A player straight up, or a combination of draft pick(s) and player(s)?

They need either several teams to get involved in the bidding to drive up Brown’s price, or one Jon Gruden.

Brown did not help matters with his antics during and shortly after the season. He also did not enhance his value to another team when he announced he wants guaranteed money.

For all his faults, the attractiveness of Brown is his talent and his current contract that has three years left at salaries of $12.6 million, $11.3 million and $12.5 million, none of it guaranteed. He also has a $2.5 million roster bonus due March 17 that another team will assume if the Steelers manage to trade him by then.

Those are attractive salaries for a player of Brown’s stature, but teams might balk if he wants a new contract that contains guarantees.

It’s also possible that if Brown goes somewhere else, he will leave all of his baggage in Pittsburgh. As Colbert pointed out Wednesday, he’s one of the hardest-working players on the team, if not the hardest. He wants to be great and he will want to prove to the world that he still is great and can do great things elsewhere — that his greatness wasn’t specific to the Steelers.

He also will want to prove everyone wrong, especially those in Pittsburgh.

Colbert mentioned the cap hit the Steelers will take by dealing Brown. It really isn’t that bad, and he explained why.

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)

Pittsburgh’s finest honored at 83rd annual Dapper Dan awards dinner

By: Steve Rotstein, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Steelers and Penguins were well-represented as usual at the 83rd Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center Wednesday night, but two of the biggest names in Pitt athletics also took center stage.

Steelers running back James Conner, one of the most accomplished backs in Pitt’s history, received the 2018 Sportsman of the Year Award after a breakout campaign in his second NFL season.

Meanwhile, Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke was honored as the Sportswoman of the Year for helping turn around several of the Panthers’ struggling athletic programs.

Conner began his speech by thanking Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, general manager Kevin Colbert and owner Art Rooney II.

“I couldn’t be Pittsburgh Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year without getting that call,” Conner said. “So, if anybody has anything else nice to say, make sure you say it to [Rooney], because I want to be a Steeler for life.”

Conner rushed for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns in just 13 games last season, his first as a starter, en route to his first Pro Bowl. While those numbers might not jump off the page, Conner earned a starting role without missing a beat when Le’Veon Bell decided to sit out the 2018 season because of a contract dispute.

Of course, Conner carved out a legacy as a local legend long before the Steelers drafted him in the third round in 2017.

He excelled for three seasons at Pitt, where he became the second-leading rusher in Pitt history behind Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett.

And as you might have heard, he also beat cancer.

“Like Jerome said, greatness — that’s why I’m in this game is to be great,” Conner said.

The quote he referenced in his speech came from one of the many great Steelers running backs who paved the way for Conner — Jerome Bettis. Former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher presented Bettis with the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award, just another achievement to add to the pro football Hall of Famer’s long list of accomplishments.

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)