Le’Veon Bell is officially off the Pittsburgh Steelers’ depth chart for the second straight week. This means that he’s guaranteed to miss the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It must now be asked whether Bell might actually consider sitting out the entire 2018 season.
Given that the Steelers have a good thing going on, many felt that Bell might come back right before the start of the regular season, or at least the following week. And if he’s not concerned about the team’s success, the 26-year-old should at least worry about the $855,000 checks that he’s losing for every missed game.
Aside from the fact that Bell will now miss the second straight game, it’s also troublesome that there’s no sign of him coming back. Furthermore, Pittsburgh doesn’t seem to be adamant about giving him a new contract.
Why Does Bell Continue to Miss Games?
Le’Veon Bell’s decision to sit is based around his desire to get a long-term contract. Bell is currently paid $14.54 million per season, but he’d like to earn more as one of the league’s top running backs.
Another issue here is that Bell doesn’t want to suffer more wear and tear before he hits the free agent market in 2019. Le’Veon is worried that he might get hurt before earning what figures to be the biggest contract of his career, because the Steelers used him to the tune of 406 touches last season.
The problem is that the Steelers have already put enough money into their offense and aren’t willing to commit more to Bell. That said, it’s easy to see why this situation has turned into a standoff between the two sides.
Will Bell Come Back by Week 10?
The key time period to watch here is Week 10. Bell needs to show up at this point to get credit for his current contract and force Pittsburgh into a final decision.
Assuming he continues to sit past Week 10, the Steelers still have some options for dealing with him. They could franchise tag him next season and pay him the same $14.54 million rate for 2019. They could franchise tag and trade him by July 15, 2019, with Bell working out a new contract with the next team.
One more option would simply be letting him leave this off-season through free agency. In that case, the Steelers would receive a compensatory draft pick in 2020.
Bell needs to think about what kind of contract he figures to get by letting Pittsburgh trade him, versus playing some or all of the season and hitting the open market. In other words, the team trading for him would need to compensate for what they’re giving up during contract negotiations.
Linebacker Khalil Mack will be paid $23.5 million per year by the Chicago Bears. But the Bears may have paid him more had they not given up two first-round picks to the Chicago Bears.
Will the Steelers Win Without Bell?
Pittsburgh presumably has enough talent to beat Tampa Bay and most other teams on its schedule without Bell. Plus, James Conner proved himself to be a capable player while starting in Bell’s absence.
Of course, Bell is arguably the best running back in the league. He’s essentially irreplaceable until he decides to return to the field.
The Steelers must rely on their passing game more in the meantime. This means Ben Roethlisberger looking for Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster more often. Even if the passing game is completely clicking, though, Pittsburgh needs Bell on the field if they want to remain serious Super Bowl contenders.