Well… if the rumors are true, we may not be seeing one of the NFL’s top running backs for a while. Apparently, Le’Veon Bell hasn’t shown up to practice, much to the dismay of his teammates, Steelers fans, and those who were “lucky” enough to draft him onto their Fantasy Football teams. The 26-year-old has been MIA for all of training camp, which wouldn’t be a huge deal, but on Monday, he failed to show up to official team practice. He also missed team meetings on Wednesday. Basically, he hasn’t shown up for work yet… at all.
As the Steelers gear up to take on the Browns in their season opener on Sunday, even his teammates have begun to speak their minds about the situation. Bell is a huge part of the Steelers’ offense, so obviously, it’s shaky times in Pittsburgh right now. It only adds (a significant amount of) fuel to the fire that Bell is scheduled to make a cool $14.5 million this year… more than any other running back in the NFL. Some of his lesser-paid teammates aren’t impressed:
More Ramon Foster on Bell: “He’s making 7 times what I make twice as much as Al (Villanueva) is making and we’re the guys who do it for him.”
— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) September 5, 2018
So what’s going on? We don’t know exactly what’s going on in Bell’s head, but he hasn’t signed his deal with the Steelers for this season yet. Last year, they signed him under a one-year franchise tag rather than a long-term contract extension. This year, the Steelers have offered him the same bargain. Bell apparently wanted a long-term contract with the team and they – again – refused to give it to him. This year, he hasn’t signed anything… yet.
In 2017, Bell didn’t show up until nine days before the Steelers’ first game and technically, he didn’t have to… because he wasn’t under contract with the team. People understood that. People were cool about that. But now he’s missed an actual practice, and people are steamed. To make matters worse, Bell’s agent has hinted that this may not be the only days that Bell misses. Right now, it’s looking like Bell is going to miss Week 1 of the regular season… at the very least.
Fellow lineman David DeCastro said, “We all thought he’d be here today. He makes us all kind of look stupid a little bit… Just sit out the whole year then.”
Center Maurkice Pouncey had similar remarks, “Why play hide and seek? Why let your agent say this? Just man up and tell us what you’re going to do.”
At least one of his teammates has made a joke about it. Ramon Foster showed off his feelings and photoshop skills in a tweet…
— Ramon Foster (@RamonFoster) September 5, 2018
The thing is, this is mostly a business decision for Bell. He’s giving up $855,000 each week he doesn’t show up because he’s not getting the deal he wants. But according to his agent, Adisa Bakari, he also wants to limit his use – meaning the wear and tear on his body. This is something other pro players understand because last year, the man had 431 touches, more than any other player in the NFL, and probably close to that many tackles. It takes a lot out of a player, and odds are the Steelers would likely run the tread off his tires again this season trying to make it to a Super Bowl. (As would any other team.) Getting worn out like that decreases a player’s interest in free agency (Bell’s current end goal), meaning he would have to negotiate again with the Steelers.
According to Bell’s agent, “If my clients win Super Bowls and go into the Hall of Fame, that’s great. But my No. 1 concern is to make sure my clients leave their sport financially secure.”
Bell is also betting that his replacement RB James Conner won’t have an incredible game against the Browns in his place. Apparently, the second-year player is pumped about having the chance. Connor said, “I’ve got the opportunity to play the game again. Any time I can play football, I don’t take it for granted. I’ve got an opportunity for Sunday and I can’t wait for it.’’
Rumors are flying that the All-Pro Bell may not show up and play for the Steelers until as late as Week 10 or 11. That’s because November is the latest Bell can sign his current tender and still accrue one year of NFL service. And boy has this news has gotten Fantasy Football players all sorts of worked up. Those who drafted Bell are having an absolute meltdown on social media. They’re calling for Bell to show up, score them some points, or give them back that cash they paid to join their Fantasy league, dangit! Along with lots of other profanity. Even David Spade is getting in on the action…
Hey @LeVeonBell , I know this is a stressful time for you but as I’m sure you heard I drafted you. So I cant have this right now. I need you to get in the game. I feel like this money convo can wait till Jan. I can float you whatever but let’s just get on that field thanks bud
— David Spade (@DavidSpade) September 4, 2018
Since Bell’s past few attempts at negotiating with the Steelers haven’t gone so well, he will likely enter free agency after this season. And then what? Where will Bell go? Some folks speculate he’ll eventually make his way to the Patriots, but don’t check Twitter because there are tons of #FakeTradeRumors going around. Until that happens though, it remains to be seen how many games Bell will actually play for Pittsburgh before this season ends.