Had the Antonio Brown situation not been as much of a media circus, the Le’Veon Bell divorce from the Pittsburgh Steelers might have been the talk of the last NFL offseason. After holding out an entire year over a contract dispute, Bell went over to the New York Jets without any interference from the Pittsburgh team. The year leading into that, however, was filled with mudslinging and finger-pointing.
A recent tweet from Bell, however, has some hope that what was once a toxic situation can now be a beautiful reunion in the future.
Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh
Le’Veon Bell spent five years with the Steelers’ organization. As the 48th overall pick out of Michigan State in 2013, Bell showed the team a lot of promise. He immediately became one of the team’s primary targets as a rookie, and things only got better for both Bell and the Steelers afterward. By year number two, Bell was rushing for 1,361 yards and eight touchdowns while earning a spot on the NFL’s All-Pro team.
Injuries briefly derailed his momentum in 2015, but by 2016, Bell was in star form yet again, nearly matching his numbers from two years earlier. By 2017, however, Bell was once again an All-Pro running back after nearly 1,300 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. His speed and agility made him a nightmare for every opponent.
By the time that 2018 came along, however, there was a contract dispute that ultimately derailed Bell’s career with the team.
The contract disputes
Le’Veon Bell and the Steeler’s contract dispute did not begin in 2018. According to 24/7 Sports, it began to take form in 2016 when negotiations for a new contract did not materialize as quickly as either side hoped. Bell had a number he wanted, and the Steelers had a much lower in mind. The deals were so far apart that nothing was brought to the table.
The saga continued when Bell released a rap song stating that he wanted $15 million a year, causing a rift with the Steelers. Rather than letting Bell test the waters, the Steelers placed the franchise tag on him, forcing him to return to the team for a predetermined salary. The two sides eventually got to negotiating, and Bell eventually joined the team after missing a large chunk of training camp.
By the end of the 2017 season, the impasse remained. Bell threatened retirement if the Steelers issued another franchise tag. The two sides were unable to reach a new deal by the deadline and were given another franchise tag. Although Bell didn’t retire, he did sit out the entire season and forego any pay. The Steelers players began to publicly spar with Bell, asking where his sense of pride in the team was.
After testing the trade market and Bell’s wishy-washy claims of coming back, the season went by without any resolution. Eventually, the Steelers let Bell walk over to the New York Jets.
Could Le’Veon Bell soon reunite with Pittsburgh?
Despite finally getting what he wanted, a high paying job away from Pittsburgh, there were immediate rumors of discourse in the Jets organization. The Jets fired General Manager Mike Maccagnan just three weeks after the draft, with new coach Adam Gase’s disapproval of paying Bell his lucrative contract.
Bell and Gase eventually made peace, but Bell’s long-term role with the Jets is still uncertain. With rumors of a trade persisting, Bell made headlines with a tweet to Ben Roethlisberger offering support as he recovered from his arm injury.
While everything is speculation, many took this tweet as a show of good faith between Bell and his former team. Drama and sports go hand in hand, and even ugly divorces can be mended with time and understanding. The Steelers know life without Bell, and while their quarterback is aging and injured, reuniting him with his star running back would not be a bad idea.
Le’Veon Bell’s tweet may very well have been simple support, but it still showed progress being made between him and his former team. Whether or not there is ever a reunion, Bell’s ability to get in Pittsburgh’s good graces again would be valuable for everyone involved.