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Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell: The feud, conundrum and the Steelers Way

No two contract situations are the same, one thing remains consistent throughout though, the Steelers way.

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason has been a relatively quiet one for the Steelers and their players; the lone exception being Le’Veon Bell. It’s no secret Bell deserves to be paid like a star offensive player, just like Antonio Brown last year. Unfortunately, it’s much more complicated this time around than it was with AB.

You may be thinking to yourself that Le’Veon Bell’s contract situation isn’t too dissimilar from Antonio Brown’s last year. Well, as much as I’d like to say that’s right, that is just not the case.

In light of AB’s recent social media call out, whether it’s right or wrong, it’s quite understandable why he is upset with his teammate. Before we dive into this though, it’s important to understand the background of Antonio Brown, and where he’s coming from, compared to Bell.

As we are no doubt aware, Antonio Brown was a sixth round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers. This was after trading away Santonio Holmes to acquire Bryant McFadden and a fifth round pick which they used to trade down to select the little known WR from Central Michigan.

The Steelers obviously thought a lot of Brown if they traded away their young star receiver Holmes, who also tested the Steelers trust. AB was given a fair opportunity in his second season to acquire the starting WR spot next to Wallace as he battled with Emmanuel Sanders for that job in training camp.

He didn’t win the job week 1, but as Sanders struggled with injuries, while also missing two games as he grieved over the death of his mother, Brown took advantage. All those misfortunes, no matter how tragic they were, locked up his spot next to Wallace for the foreseeable future.

That future seemed very short lived as Wallace held out of training camp in 2012 because he wanted to be paid much more than the Steelers offered him. When Wallace declined that offer, the Steelers instead gave the offer to Antonio Brown, who went from being paid around four hundred thousand, to around 8 million in total yearly earnings.

Wallace’s holdout served only as a distraction for the Steelers, particularly the front office and Coach Tomlin, who got absolutely fed up talking about him. Wallace ended up leaving the Steelers after that season and never came close to doing what he did in Pittsburgh.

  • Now what does this have to do with Bell’s contract situation?

Remember, Le’Veon Bell was drafted in the second round and was projected to go high in the draft. He was going to get a fair opportunity to compete for a job in the NFL, that’s just the nature of this business.

Ever since Bell has taken over the starting RB spot for the Steelers, he’s not only been a valuable asset as a runner, he’s invented his own style of RB that creates an amazing impact with how defenses try to minimize him. If even one defender is out of his gap, Bell will make you pay for it due to his great vision and super fluid hips that make it seamless for him to cut, while changing directions.

This type of ability and style is complimented well, but only few can really duplicate it. Not to mention his receiving ability, which he proved (when healthy) back in 2014 he can take on the workload of a number 2 WR and a full time RB. Bell also rarely comes off the field, something that must be taken into account. It’s very doubtful that people would suspect that a 2nd round pick would be that valuable and game changing.

  • So where am I going with this?

Simple, Bell understands that his ability would reverse the RB market. The position has become so devalued in recent years due to both injuries, the lack of young talent and the lack of necessity for one. He’s the hope that position has to becoming valued again, while also using his game changing talent as leverage.

  • But what does this have to do with Brown?

Remember, Brown has seen much throughout his NFL career, he knows how one player’s off field actions helped get him here, he understands how prioritizing money over camp can create a huge distraction for the team, and he knows how that can lead to a player being gone from the team the very next season.

Plain and simple, Brown has seen this go down before, and it ended with terrible results. He’s also fully in debt to the Steelers after giving him that fair chance that other teams most likely wouldn’t have given him. He wants to win a Super Bowl, and knows the window will close if Ben Roethlisberger retires.

Without Bell, that chance for a championship takes a big hit. Brown knows that holdouts never end well with Pittsburgh and would be devastated if Bell’s holdout dooms a championship run.

Bell is no stranger to creating distractions in the past, with the two suspensions he’s had in the past two years, technically the first was as a result of 2014’s preseason “Blount” incident with LeGarette, and AB would like to do all he can to stop any distractions this coming season.

Here’s the thing though, AB is not allergic to being a catalyst for distractions either. His most notable occurring during the postseason in the locker room in Kansas City. Nothing more needs to be said on that matter as that story was beaten like a dead horse.

  • So what’s the final point?

My point is that Bell may have a hard time giving into the reasoning of AB simply because of the different circumstances of how they both came in the league, what they’re prioritizing and the possible hypocrisy when you think about it. Arguing value here is pointless.

The Steelers will not cave to Bell’s demands for more contract security, guaranteed money past the first two years, at this moment. Bell’s walking a tight rope when it comes to trust, and we all saw how that went down in 2010 with Holmes. Put into the fact we haven’t discussed the amount of injuries that have piled up over Bell’s career, you see why the Steelers understandably have a hard time committing fully. Bell is using whatever leverage he has in his overall ability and tangible value to secure more contract security.

Point is, it’s Bell’s choice to make.