Last year when we finally realized that Le’Veon Bell wouldn’t play a down in 2018, I went with the classic line “Our long national nightmare is over.” With the Steelers deciding today to not use the Transition Tag, Bell becomes an unrestricted free agent putting an emphatic period on the end of that nightmare.
General Manager Kevin Colbert spoke on a number of issues today, most notably that the team will officially attempt to trade Antonio Brown, but he also announced the news about Bell. This ends one of the more divisive and disappointing player-team relationships in the history of the franchise.
This is a move I’ve advocated for some time. The Transition Tag carried with it no guarantees of anything in return for the Steelers. As an UFA, Bell signing elsewhere could get the Steelers a third round compensatory pick in 2020. It might not sound like much but at least it’s something.
Bell’s time in Pittsburgh was marked by everything from late-game heroics and season ending injuries to marijuana problems and powerful stiff-arms. But those things will no doubt take a backseat to his missed season and ugly social media posts. There will always be debate over whether the Steelers offered him enough or whether Bell was just too greedy. There are fair points to be made on each’s behalf but at the end of the day the Steelers made a more than fair offer. Had Bell been injury free and ‘off-field issues free’ then perhaps things could have been much different.
Bell’s official departure in many ways is the beginning of a much needed cleanse of this team’s problems. By all accounts Bell was an excellent teammate who worked hard and was respected while on the field or inside the facility but the goodwill had clearly faded by early in the 2018 season. Several teammates felt letdown or lied to as Bell never reported. You may remember the classic “2018 will be my best season ever” tweet which in the parlance of today ‘didn’t age well.’
While not nearly the problem Antonio Brown has been, Bell being gone can only be viewed as a positive. There will be no more questions and no more drama surrounding him and as great a player as he was in the Steel City I’m glad to be rid of his role in the recent circus.