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Le’Veon Bell receiving the franchise tag a necessary evil in strained relationship with Steelers

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After what appeared to be positive groundwork being made between both the Steelers and Bell getting a deal done, all that went south as team puts ‘tag’ on Bell who made his displeasure over it all very public.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

I guess it was wishful thinking on my part that the Steelers and those representing Le’Veon Bell would come together and get some sort of contract worked out that would be fair to both parties. The Steelers would secure the services of one of the top backs in the NFL, and said back would secure the money he felt he was worth, if on the open market.

Much has been made of that worth, both on this site and across any sports media platform. From the ESPN and NFL Network talking heads, to sports radio mouthpieces, to those on Twitter, Facebook and every other dot com you pound out on your laptop keyboard.

Is Bell worth the $14.5-$15 million dollars per year he is seeking?

Your guess is as good as mine.

I think I made it clear both parties would be smart to make a deal happen. Bell, for all his warts, is a good fit for this offense. His ability to catch out of the backfield is the dual threat very few at his position possess. Say what you want about his running style, or yards per attempt, his total yards from scrimmage and total touches ranked him 2nd and 1st in the league this past season.

However, when you look at pure averages, his 4.0 average per carry ranked him tied for 24th among NFL running backs. His longest run of 27 yards placed him 23rd best on that list.

When you add the baggage of multiple drug suspensions, showing up late for a walk-through before the playoff game vs. Jacksonville, his demeanor over getting what he wants and all the other drama pertaining to life on social media, I can see where the camp that is firm on the Steelers cutting him loose has a point.

I’m starting to move towards being in that same camp.

When news broke this past Monday that the franchise tag was going to be used, it seemed to send a ripple throughout the Pittsburgh sports community. It wasn’t a big secret this could be one scenario which would play out. After moving money around on several players contracts weeks ago, it looked like a deal could happen between the two parties.

It didn’t. And now I wonder if one will happen at all.

Perhaps the Steelers re-working Antonio Brown’s deal is a step towards getting something done. Bell said he won’t play for less than the $14.55 million coming to him if he were to play into a tag for a 2nd season. I don’t blame players for trying to get every penny they can. They are one play away, one practice play away from seeing it all come to a crashing end. There are no guarantees in life or the NFL. Bell is in his right to hold firm on what he feels he’s worth.

The question is, does it still make sense to his current employer? Given the void they will have at inside linebacker knowing Ryan Shazier is out for 2018. Given the needs this team has on the defensive side of the ball, it could be too much to pay one player at a position that doesn’t have the value at the number being asked for. Maybe in the end, the best move is to sign and trade Bell. Oakland comes to mind when it comes to overpaying for talent. Tampa Bay is another team that has a need at the position and has some cap room.

As it stands today, I’m still thinking it’s a 50/50 split on a deal getting done. I still think this team is better with Bell than without. Time will tell if both sides can come to terms, but placing the tag on Bell is the right call at this moment in time. He may not like it, but Bell will have to deal with it if he wants to make big money in his immediate future.

John Phillips is the author of this article and a secret member of the galactic empire. When he’s not hunting down jedi scum along Ft. Duquesne Blvd, he can be found giving his wretched opinion on all things Steelers for BTSC.