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Does a Le’Veon Bell return to the Steelers make sense?

Some are suggesting a return to Pittsburgh is possible for Le’Veon Bell, but is it even feasible?

Pittsburgh Steelers v New York Jets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

It is the NFL offseason, which means it is the silly season for football outlets. Writers think of anything, and everything, to cover. This might be in the way of Power Rankings or Mock Drafts, but content is king for these outlets and this includes creating rumors which might not have any validity to them whatsoever.

This would be the case when ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio suggested New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell might be in line for a reunion with the Pittsburgh Steelers. After the 2019 season saw James Conner get hurt, again, Jaylen Samuels look less than stellar and Benny Snell Jr. showing very few signs of being ‘the guy’ moving forward has a Bell return looking tantalizing for Steelers fans.

“I wouldn’t be stunned to see him wind up back in Pittsburgh,” Florio said to co-host Chris Simms.

“You’re right,” Simms replied. “That’s the one place I look at and go ‘I can see that happening.’ Then the Jets maybe pay part of the salary. It’s going to have to be something like that.”

Again, it all sounds great, but is a return to the ‘burgh actually something which would take place? A lot would have to go into it, and it seems less and less likely when you start to break down logistics.

First, the acquisition would have to happen via trade since Bell is under contract with New York with four more years left on his deal. The Steelers can’t afford to pick up Bell’s salary, so the trade would have to also include the Jets picking up some, or most, of the salary.

But let’s not forget the Steelers would have to give up something in return for Bell’s services. What draft picks, or players, who the team have to part with to get Bell back on the team? Again, that is if the Steelers actually wanted Bell back.

On top of all those logistics, you also have to ask the question whether Bell even fits on the Steelers’ roster. On the surface it looks like it would be just fine. After all, Conner can’t stay healthy and the most talked about running back in 2019 was a player who was picked up off a practice squad midseason, Kerrith Whyte Jr.

Conner, Samuels, Snell and Whyte are all on their rookie contracts and cost the team hardly anything. Bringing in Bell wouldn’t just mean the end of the road for one, maybe two, of the team’s current running backs, but also inflate the team’s overall cap number which they cannot afford.

Any talk of acquiring a big name player this offseason should be dealt with extreme criticism considering the Steelers have less than $6 million dollars is salary cap space left. You think making room for the $16 million it would cost to franchise tag Bud Dupree is tough? Try creating enough space to withstand Bell’s salary. In 2020, Bell will have a cap hit with a new team of $13.5 Million (since $2 million was already paid via his signing bonus) so if the Steelers were to make the necessary moves to create that space, you could guarantee Dupree, Javon Hargrave and plenty other players’ dismissal from the team.

There is a potential out for the team who picks up Bell’s contract in 2021, but if his contract were to remain for all four remaining years, his salary cap hits for a new team would be:

2021: $11,500,000
2022: $13,000,000

I guess this wasn’t a horrible offseason exercise, and the thought of having a three down back like Bell back in Pittsburgh certainly is tantalizing. I just don’t see it happening. Could Bell find a new home in 2020? Absolutely, but Pittsburgh’s current situation doesn’t make the Steel City a likely destination.