Here we go again.
Word on Friday is that Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell is facing a 4 game suspension for missing a drug test. That means that Bell will miss time to start the season because of suspension for 2 consecutive seasons.
There has been some talk of Le’Veon possibly signing a long term extension with the team this off-season. To me, that seemed premature given the fact that Bell has dealt with a lot of injuries and nobody is sure how he will look coming off of knee surgery.
This latest screw up hurts in the short-term, and in the long-term but overall I think that the Steelers are still in pretty good shape in both departments…
Obviously, not having a talent like Le’Veon Bell on the field hurts. However, the Steelers have a more than capable backup in DeAngelo Williams. DeAngelo likely is too old to shoulder the load for an entire season, but for 4 games he can do it.
In the 2 games Bell was suspended last year, DeAngelo rushed for 204 yards and 3 touchdowns. The worry is if DeAngelo gets injured they they may be in trouble asking Fitzgerald Toussaint to be the guy. There are a couple of veterans on the market if the Steelers were interested in adding one, such as Joique Bell, Toby Gerhart, Reggie Bush, or Pierre Thomas.
In the context of trying to win a Superbowl this season, if the team can get through the first 4 weeks with a decent record, it might help to give a guy coming off a knee injury an extra month to rehab, and stay fresh for longer… so maybe he actually makes it through the playoffs for the first time in his career.
Long term, as I mentioned, I was never fully convinced that Le’Veon was a “retire a Steeler” guy to begin with. We’re at an interesting point in the NFL landscape when it comes to the running back position. Adrian Peterson’s albatross of a contract raises the market average significantly, but after him it seems running back contracts are coming to a plateau more than raising like the contracts of Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers.
Le’Veon could probably get a monster contract somewhere, but not from a smart team that’s trying to compete for Superbowls. When a free agent that went mostly unnoticed like DeAngelo Williams can give you elite play, for 2 million per season, why would you want to throw 5 or 6 times that at a guy like Bell?
With this latest screw up, I’m even more convinced that the team should try to get what production out of Bell that they can (in their current championship window), and then let him walk. As of now, I think the team would be in a great position in the backfield if they let Bell play out the season, draft a running back on day 1 or 2 of the RB-loaded 2017 NFL Draft, and then possibly let that rookie back up Bell for 1 year on a franchise tag tender, or possibly even just let him walk and surely receive a 3rd round pick as a compensatory pick the following year.
Le’Veon Bell seems to be a generational talent. However, he plays a position that’s just not as important in the league today and a position that’s fairly easy to find replacements for. I’d be on board with giving Bell an extension if you argued for what he brings to the passing game, but with the injuries and now suspensions mounting; I’d have no issues with the Steelers getting what they can from him while they can and then moving on.