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Le’Veon Bell will miss the 2018 NFL Season

Le’Veon Bell has missed the 4pm deadline to report to the Pittsburgh Steelers and sign his franchise tender, effectively ending his 2018 season.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Le’Veon Bell by Jack Kurzenknabe is in the Public Domain

Le’Veon Bell will miss the 2018 NFL Season

Estimated Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Le’Veon Bell has missed the 4 pm deadline to report to the Pittsburgh Steelers and sign his franchise tender. He is now officially ineligible to play for any time on any level of salary for the 2018 NFL season. By failing to report, Bell forfeits fourteen and a half MILLION dollars. You heard that correct. Whether or not this has been a good move for Bell will hinge on what kind of contract the All-Pro Running Back gets in the offseason.

It has been all about the money for Bell. Starting with his first contract dispute year, 2017, Bell made it clear he wanted to “reset the running back market.” This was a phrase that became something of a mantra for him. However, after holding out during that training camp, Bell reported for Week 1 and went on to have another superb season.

This year however, Bell doubled down on his monetary priorities, specifically after fellow running backs Todd Gurley and David Johnson received big contracts with guaranteed money. Bell kept most of the sports watching world on edge for several months, hinting at coming back several times, but never materializing.

“Hide and Seek”

First, there were the reports that he would show up and sign before the Steelers’ Week 1 match up against the Browns. There was even a guarantee by Center and offensive captain Maurice Pouncey. “LeVeon Bell will be here Wednesday. Count on it,” Pouncey assured ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Wednesday came but Bell did not. This seemed to rub many of his offensive linemen the wrong way, as many of them sounded off, questioning Bell’s commitment to the team. 

Pouncey called Bell’s actions hide and seek. It was the first of many such disappointing deadlines.

By the Bye

The next slew of reports indicated that Bell would return over the Steelers’ bye week. Jeremy Fowler tweeted on Oct 1, “Le’Veon Bell expects to report to the Steelers during the Week 7 bye, a source told @ESPN. Bell definitely plans to play football for the Steelers this season.” It was supposed he would have saved his body enough by missing the first six games, and that he would get up to speed during the extra week of practice. Then it would be business as usual, right? Wrong. Again, Bell was a no show.

Last Chance U

This final deadline was not one Bell imposed himself. However, he still teased the Steelers and the world with it non the less. Bell himself tweeted a week ago that he was leaving Miami. “Fairwell Miami,” he posted. Spelling errors aside, it looked like he had finally made up his mind to show up to work. He was even spotted in Pittsburgh in the coming days… playing pick up basketball at an LA fitness. The sports world tried to make sense of this. He’s back in Pittsburgh, but still doing semi-reckless pick up sports. Is he showing up or isn’t he.

The final nail in the coffin appeared to come when a random report was published by about his franchise tag next year. The report said that, whether Bell played or not, the Steelers would have to pay him the quarterback level $25 million if it wanted to tag him a third time. It then was reported that this was new information for Bell and his agent.

And that maybe this was a game changer. He then sent off a series of cryptic tweets about not judging him, including one that was (not a joke) upside down, and then scrubbed his social media accounts of all reference to the Steelers. It appeared that maybe we had seen the last of Bell in the Black and Gold. We found out today at 4 pm that that was in fact the case.

Winners and Losers: LeVeon Bell

Most believe it is a close call whether or not Bell made the right choices for his career this season. It largely will hinge on what kind of deal he can make in the offseason. The baseline will be a combination of the $14.5 million guaranteed he gave up this year and the five-year $70 million dollar contract with 33 million guaranteed.

So if he gets a contract of say, $15.5 million a year over four years with 35 million guaranteed, then his gamble probably paid off. But if he ends up only getting, say, $13 million a year for three years with only $25 million guaranteed, maybe not so much. That is because he also gave up the $14.5 million guaranteed he would have had this year. If that is the case, Bell probably, as some of my fellow Turf writers have aptly put it, “goofed.”

Winners and Losers: The Steelers

As for the Steelers, whether Bell’s absence for the remainder of the year is good or bad hinges largely on current rising star and Bell replacement, James Connor, is able to stay healthy through the rest of the year. Statistically, Connor has actually been better than Bell.

Through the first nine games of 2017, Bell’s stat line was as follows: 260 touches for 1,091 total yards, 3.8 yards per rush, and 5 total touchdowns. Through the first nine of 2018, Connor’s stat line is 203/1,158/4.7/11. It’s also been suggested Connor’s running style is preferable to this offensive linemen. The five man unit, having a career year themselves, have made comment after comment about how much they love blocking for Connor. Also, Bell’s $14.5 million that he graciously gave back to the Steelers will roll over into next year’s salary cap. So whatever the salary cap for 2019 ends up being, the Steelers will have $14.5 mil on top of that to play with.

However, if Connor goes down, Bell not being on the roster could cripple the Steelers’ season. The team’s current success runs through Connor, the O-line, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to play off of them. If Connor goes down long term, and they don’t have Bell to pick up the slack, what is turning into a great season for the Black and Gold could be ruined.

Michael is a Pittsburgh ex-pat living in NYC as a working bartender and semi working actor. He enjoys long walks down the Strip District, thinks yinz should go dawntawn 'inat, and knows that when you play Pittsburgh you play the whole city. But he's unbiased. I swear. Michael writes mostly hockey and football op eds for the Turf, but maybe soon he'll try his hand at covering horse racing or hot dog eating. Who knows. The sky's the limit.

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