The pressure felt by Le’Veon Bell has to be substantial for the All-Pro running back. After reportedly turning down a 5-year contract worth a whole lot of cash, Bell bet on himself in 2017 and decided to play this year on a one-year franchise tag tender.
Betting on yourself is one thing, but going out and performing at a high level worthy of the money you demand is another. And after Week 1, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense looked as if Bell wasn’t going to be the main key to the offense as he’s been since 2014.
Could it just be a 1-week thing, especially considering Bell sat out all of training camp and preseason play? Absolutely it could be, but it could also be the team trying to limit his touches to keep him healthy, or even to send a message regarding his holdout. I can’t say I’m buying the latter of the two, considering just how good Bell is at every facet of his position. But you can’t ignore how he was deployed in Week 1. Bell only playing 43 of 60 offensive snaps is hopefully a 1-week trial for the offense.
As the team prepares for their Week 2 game against the Minnesota Vikings, Bell was asked what he thought about the many times the Steelers went with four wide receivers, which put Bell on the sideline watching.
Bell said all the right things, for now.
“However they plan to use me, I’ll be available,” Bell said. “I’ll make sure I go out there and put everything on the line when I’m in the game and do the best that I can.”
Sounds like a good employee toeing the company line, but when asked if he wanted to be on the field every down, as he has been when healthy the past three seasons, his answer was more telling.
“Of course, I want to be out there every play. I’m just executing the game plan and doing what I’m told,” Bell said.
If you haven’t watched Bell’s media session, you can see it below.
Le'Veon Bell is ready to do whatever is asked of him against the Vikings. pic.twitter.com/O88lSJ1BMC— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 14, 2017
At the end of the interview Bell talks about how he wants to be a big part of the offense, and prides himself on playing every down. Again, what he has done for the Steelers the past three seasons.
With that said, it wouldn’t be crazy for the team to want to preserve their running back for the long haul and not run the wheels off of him early in the season. But how they handle Bell in Week 2, with two weeks of preparation under his belt, will be very telling. Another outing like he had on Sunday in Cleveland would likely begin to frustrate Bell.
If this is the new norm for Bell, you might start to see a more-disgruntled employee and one who openly chides the way he’s being utilized in the offense. Ultimately, I doubt the situation will ever get to that state for the Steelers, as it would be downright idiotic not to utilize the most dynamic running back in the game.
In Week 1, Bell looked rusty and the team should bet on him to return to form in Week 2. If/when that happens, all will be right with the world again and seeing Bell carve up defenses will be a welcome sight for Steelers fans everywhere.