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What exactly is going on with Le’Veon Bell and his lack of production?

Le'Veon Bell is struggling since missing the preseason. Is it merely a case of rust or could the Steeler star be holding back in anger?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

There are many things I wonder about. I wonder what happened to my wedding ring that I lost in 2008. I wonder if there was a cute girl in my 1980s high school that secretly had a crush on me and I wonder "what if" the Steelers drafted Dan Marino back in 1983. I even wonder if there's a kiosk in the afterlife that will answer all of these questions for me. Right now, I'm wondering about Le'Veon Bell. Not the future, but the present featuring Le'Veon Bell in a black-and-gold uniform.

We know all about the history of No. 26 since he was drafted in the second round by the Steelers out of Michigan State in 2013. In his first four seasons as a Steeler, Bell has amassed 4,045 yards (86.1 per game) on the ground and 2,005 (42.7 per game) as a receiver in a mere 47 games. Playing 64 games in those four years would have resulted in perfect attendance for Bell, but five games missed due to suspension and twelve more due to injury kept him from reaching that tally. In 2017, Bell is only averaging 60 YPG rushing and 18.7 YPG receiving—far below what’s expected from a player who feels he should be paid as the number one running back and number two receiver. In his mind, that's circa $17 million.

The Steelers believe that Bell should be paid as well and as a franchise-tagged player, they’re paying him...Le'Veon is getting $12.1 million for 2017. They reportedly offered him a very lucrative package which...well you know the rest. Bell didn't join the team on the practice field until a few games before the opener and his performance has been less than what’s expected from a player of Bell's caliber.

The excuse of missing training camp and being rusty worked at first. It made plenty of sense; he just had to get in game shape and everything would be fine. But after three games, things are far from okay. Bell doesn’t look like himself. He’s dropping passes, not getting his typical yardage and barely scoring. It could still be rust, but it seems like something else could be in play. Bell could simply be holding back. Bell's level of maturity has been questioned throughout this entire ordeal. Could it be that the star RB is pouting because he didn't get what he wanted and thus isn’t giving his all? That sounds extreme but it could be the reason. Maybe he feels that he's never going to get the money he feels that he deserves. Maybe he's trying to force them not to franchise him next year, allowing No. 26 to be set free to test the open market. But therein lies the rub. Teams might not want to invest in a player the $17M that Bell is seeking if they believe he won't give his best on the field.

Maybe Bell is playing cautiously to avoid getting hurt. But that's typically when one does get hurt. Maybe he's still injured from the AFC Championship. The bottom line is that No. 26 isn't right whatsoever.

Maybe it’s something else altogether.

The Steelers and their fans need Bell to perform at a high level and Bell does too, if he hopes to get what he desires. This needs to happen soon to satisfy all parties. It needs to happen in Baltimore on Sunday. Until then, the speculation continues.