I didn’t bother taking in any of the week’s festivities, or any of the 60 minutes of football on display in Orlando where the NFL stars gathered for the 2018 Pro Bowl. It’s a glorified pick-up game, and now that it’s not even in Hawaii, my time is better spent de-ticking a pack of roving rottweilers that haven’t eaten in a week.
But one thing that did pique my attention from all the hot noise coming out of central Florida was the positive vibes Bell threw out to both local and national media regarding his employer discussing a contract that would lock him up for the next four to five years, ensuring the Steelers have one of the game’s premier backs in the fold.
And to that, I breathe a sigh of relief.
Yes, you read that right.
Make what you will of Bell’s antics—his penchant to smoke-up, tweet, hold out, start slow and the kitchen sink. Without him, the Steelers would be nothing close to what they are now.
Not that this is saying much since — well, you know.
Bell didn’t start 2017 off so well. Not that we didn’t see this coming. You can’t expect to be at full game speed when you take the summer off from all football related activities. His holdout was more about making a statement to gain a long-term deal than anything else, and despite his lackluster efforts to begin the season, the team managed regardless.
There are many ways to dive into the numbers Bell finished the season with. You can say all you want about his 4.0-yard average, or that his biggest gain of the year was only 27-yards, (his longest catch was 42) in 15 regular-season games. Bell would have won the rushing title had he not sat out the final game of the season vs. Cleveland, watching Kareem Hunt of Kansas City best him by 36-yards to take the crown.
Numbers aside, Bell’s skill level, abilities and talent give him more of a pass than 99.9-percent of other players. Is that fair? No. But such is the life and the age we live in. His talent allows him more leeway to get away with bad behavior, although his demeanor has changed a bit the past few seasons. In today’s NFL, you market yourself as a brand to make the biggest buck while you’re still a hot commodity, because once your body or talent slips, so do the big paychecks.
Bell will turn 26 next month. He’s got five seasons under his belt. He’s touched the ball nearly 1,600 times in his career both rushing and receiving. For all the talk about how running backs get beat up and battered in this league, Bell has plenty of tread left on his tires.
It’s a ride the Steelers should keep taking.
Does a backfield-by-committee of James Conner, Stevan Ridley and Fitzgerald Toussaint make you sleep easy at night?
We know the answer to that question.
Signing Bell long-term is the right thing to do. Given the news that Ben Roethlisberger wants to play another three years, plus Antonio Brown being signed through 2021, the Steelers would be smart to get Bell locked in now, if they aim to chase a seventh Lombardi.
Signing Le’Veon Bell is a necessary move for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Anything else might upset the apple cart and push the team back into the middle of the pack of AFC teams chasing the New England Patriots and the GOAT.
The author of this article is John Phillips, a secret member of the Galactic Empire who chases down jedi scum from Blawnox to Burgettstown. When he’s not doing that, you can find JP on BTSC writing opinion columns, a duty he’s enjoyed since 2014.