I distinctly remember sitting at my computer and seeing the report on Twitter where Le’Veon Bell told reporters his groin injury, which kept him out the majority of the AFC Championship game, was not a new injury, and how he had maintained the injury well throughout the season.
If you follow the NFL, and their rules on reporting injuries, you know how serious they take a team falsifying their injury report. I immediately thought back to the hundreds of injury reports I wrote, and Bell was never mentioned for any injury, just personal reasons, or given a day off.
Put two and two together, and you realize the Pittsburgh Steelers could be in hot water with the league over these interactions.
For those who don’t know, the Seattle Seahawks have been found guilty of this exact situation, and the NFL isn’t talking about just a fine for the organization, but a fine and a docked draft pick(s).
So, when it was reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter the NFL is about to ope an investigation into the Bell injury situation, you have to understand there is a strong chance the league follows suit with the Steelers, as they did the Seahawks.
NFL now looking into whether the Steelers failed to list RB Le'Veon Bell properly on injury report last week, per league official.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 27, 2017
Mike Tomlin addressed the situation at his end of the year press conference, and made a very valid point regarding how the team handled the injury. Bell never missed practice because of the groin injury, and was never kept off the field due to the injury either. In fact, Bell’s workload increased in the postseason, not the other way around.
Tomlin stated if he were to put every player with a slight muscle pull, bump or bruise on the injury report, he would have 46 players on the report weekly.
Let’s call it like it is. If Bell would have told reporters this injury was new, this would be a non-story, and the league wouldn’t be preparing themselves for an investigation into the matter. But before fans blame Bell, who was simply being honest, you could also suggest the way the team handles injuries could change in the future.
The Steelers could follow Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots’ lead and make a mockery of the injury report. Leading up to the AFC Championship game, the Patriots were a healthy team, yet had 7 players, majority starters, who were listed as limited at one point of the week leading up to the game, all were listed as Questionable, and all were available at kickoff. There was a season where Belichick listed Tom Brady as questionable for almost the entire season, yet Brady never missed a snap.
The root of this issue is an NFL problem, and not just a Pittsburgh Steelers problem. The league removed the ‘Probable’ tag from their injury reporting in 2016, and it didn’t change much regarding how teams handled the situation. In fact, it made things even more confusing. The NFL is the only major sporting league which requires teams to not only publicly list all their injuries, but to be as specific with the injuries. Other leagues, like MLB and NHL, give vague terms like “upper body injury”, and why the NFL does what they do all have their ties in Fantasy Football and other forms of gambling, but that is a different story altogether.
Either way, the Steelers are now faced with the league looking into Bell’s groin injury, and whether the team held back on their reporting of the injury. If the Steelers are punished more than a fine, fans could see a draft pick taken away from their favorite team. However, with Bell getting 29 carries in the Wild Card round, and 30 in the Divisional round, it should be clear the team wasn’t overly concerned with his groin injury, reported or not.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest on this story, and other news surrounding the black and gold.