If it wasn't for Jay Bell, Theo Bell and Myron Bell, one would think that the Bell surname is ringing true the definition of turmoil in Pittsburgh sports. Who can forget Derek Bell's operation shutdown in 2002 for the Pirates, or injuries cutting short a possible brilliant career for Kendrell Bell with the Steelers? Then there's the laundry list of liberties and liabilities which define Le'Veon Bell. Pittsburgh baseball fans can only hope that rookie phenom Josh Bell doesn't follow suit with the bad bell-havior.
Bell had a busy few days last week that made Steeler fans sicker to their stomachs than a 2002 Taco Tuesday at Chi Chi’s. On Thursday, No. 26 told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler that he would consider retirement or sitting out all of 2018 rather than accept the franchise tag next year. Ed Bouchette reported recently in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the All-Pro running back had missed all but five minutes of the Steelers' Saturday walk-through before their playoff loss to Jacksonville the following day. (Maybe he was busy dreaming up his social media message in which he totally discounted the Jacksonville Jaguars and looked ahead to the New England matchup, which I can't find in any tv listings this weekend.)
Then on Sunday, he showed up later than Mike Tomlin's scheduled time to the locker room for game time. This would seem like an aberration, if Bell didn't have a rap sheet of unprofessionalism and immaturity during his Steeler career. Also, one can't ignore his hip-hop career in which he has incessantly rapped about his contract displeasure. For old time sake, let's review some of Bell's low-lights.
- His arrest for DUI and marijuana possession following driving to the airport before a preseason game in Philadelphia with LeGarrette Blount in 2014, this ultimately resulted in a two-game suspension to start the 2015 season.
- His suspension for missing drug tests in December 2016 resulted in a three-game suspension to begin the 2016 season.
- His hip-hop songs highlighting his contract displeasure.
- His turning down a reported $12 million a year contract offer tendered by the team, four million more than the next-highest paid RB (LeSean McCoy).
- His slow start following his failing to report to 2017 training camp until days before the season opener.
- Voicing displeasure in the media regarding play calling after a mere 15 carries in the Week 5 loss to Jacksonville.
But to be fair and objective, Bell's highlights in Pittsburgh are nothing short of remarkable. Bell is among the greatest rushers of all-time to grace gridirons in the Steel City. It's my opinion that Bell is the top Steeler receiving back ever, as well.
Since being drafted in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Michigan State Spartan has gained 5,336 yards in a mere 62 games for an average of 86.1 yards-per-game on the ground. As a receiver, Bell has averaged 43 more yards. So, on average, the guy is putting up 125 total yards in every single contest he appears in. Not only that, he's revitalized his position that had become less of a priority in the first round of the draft. Leonard Fournette and Ezekiel Elliott benefited from Bell's ascension, and both were drafted fourth overall in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The Steelers are head-and-shoulders ahead of the curve when he is in the lineup and handcuffed without him.
On the field, the guy is gold. But in the locker room, and in social media, he seems to be verging on becoming toxic. While Bell has not been singled-out as a bad teammate, it's hard to argue that he's a good one. David DeCastro's comments regarding certain Steelers trash-talking being "embarrassing and stupid" pretty much indicts Bell, for one, for his Twitter immaturity the night before the divisional playoff debacle. Not being available for your team due to suspension, or failing to report to prepare for the season, is also not the hallmark of a selfless player. Team concept seems to be lost on Bell.
While I truly think that Fowler (although doing his job) and the media is negligent and creates problems by planting devisive questions right before a playoff game, Bell needs to avoid falling into that trap. He could have nipped it in-the-bud immediately by putting a stop to it. He did just that and showed he could recently by halting the James Harrison/New England questions days after Christmas. However, when it came to self-serving needs, Bell couldn't hold his tongue. There's a time and place for everything.
Here's the problem with this debate. None of this chicanery or immaturity seemed to effect or limit Bell in the playoff loss. He was pretty sharp by gaining 155 total yards and scored a touchdown.
Steeler Nation seems split on this matter. Some feel he is a cancer and want him gone. Others feel that he gets hurt too much and want him gone. While more people feel that $14.56 million dollars will handcuff the franchise, when defensive help us more pressing. Some don't care what he does or says off the field, as long as he goes-off while on it. And some feel that not resigning him will forfeit any Steeler chances at a Super Bowl.
The Steelers do need Bell's services to win, but he made threats and could possibly go through with the threat. However, under the tag, holding out would delay the inevitable...having to play that season for $14.5 for the Steelers. Retirement wouldn't benefit him either.
The Steelers may not want to reward Bell's most recent actions with a blockbuster deal. What kind of message would that send to everyone else in the locker room? The Steelers may be more inclined to open the vault to Bell if he wasn't as much as a glutton for controversy. Or they may just want to ride him for one more year and cut ties.
But will he comply, or honor his threats?
The Steelers have a huge decision to make. While Bell needs to gain perspective and decide his fate as well. Nonetheless, it's going to be a rollercoaster requiring Roll-Aids for all parties interested.
What should the Steelers do regarding Lev Bell?
This poll is closed
Sign him long term
Franchise him and run the wheels off of him for one season only
Let him walk