Pittsburgh Steelers fans received a long-awaited apology this weekend from former star running back Le’Veon Bell. The comments came Saturday night from his Snapchat account, where he was interacting with followers... some of whom were still seeking the apology following his holdout in the 2018 NFL season.
After receiving the franchise tag for the second time in 2018, the 2x All-Pro running back went to the market as a free agent, playing three more seasons prior to his NFL retirement. Those three years yielded stints with the New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, failing to exceed 500 scrimmage yards again beyond his initial return to the field with the Jets in 2019.
“I wanna say I apologize for leaving the best damn fans there is in this damn world. I shouldn’t have left.” For some Steelers fans, it’s too little, too late. Others might be willing to look past the pain of what could have been after noting the pang of regret in Bell’s apology.
Bell closed out the apology asking for the support of his fans (both former and current) in his new ventures, after having made a big career shift into the world of professional boxing last fall. “I need y’all’s support now more than ever,” he noted. “Y’all support me in 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013... I need that same support in 2023, just in a different profession.”
Two more holdouts on the horizon?
Has Bell’s apology served as a timely warning, perhaps, to his fellow running backs? Three running backs received the franchise tag ahead of the 2023 season: Josh Jacobs (Raiders), Saquon Barkley (Giants) and Tony Pollard (Cowboys). Unfortunatley, time is running out for them to reach a long-term deal with the team and avoid playing under the franchise tag.
Franchise tagged players have until Monday, July 17 at 4 p.m. ET to come to an agreement. If no long-term deal has been signed prior to the deadline, they’ll be forced to play on the franchise tag, as Bell did in the 2017 season. The tag will pay running backs $10.09 million in 2023, should they choose to sign and play on the one-year deal.
Jacobs and Barkley have both been vocal in their consideration of a holdout. However, mum’s the word for Pollard, who finds himself with the opportunity to lead a backfield for the first time in his career amidst the team’s release of veteran Ezekiel Elliott.