A year ago, word out of Pittsburgh was that soon-to-be free agent Antonio Brown‘s act was wearing thin with the Steelers. This year, reports are saying the same about soon-to-be free agent Le'Veon Bell.
This week’s report that the Steelers are unhappy about Bell’s tardiness comes less than two months before Bell is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency, if the Steelers don’t slap the franchise tag on him for the second consecutive year. It’s likely not a coincidence that there are sources in Pittsburgh putting out word that the player who wants to break the bank in free agency isn’t worth as much money as he’d like to think he is.
As PFT put it a year ago, “By creating the impression that they’re not happy with Brown, who remains one of the best receivers in the game, they may be able to lock him up for a lot less than he otherwise would want.”
The same could be said this year: Bell remains one of the best running backs in the game, but the Steelers would like the perception to exist that they’re not happy with him, perhaps so that he won’t get his expectations too high for how much he deserves to be paid.
In the end, the Steelers and Brown agreed to a new contract about a month after all the reports coming out of Pittsburgh that Brown’s act was wearing thin. So any reports about the Steelers growing frustrated with Bell’s behavior have to be viewed through that lens. The motivation to put out the word about Bell’s tardiness is surely related to a desire to get Bell back at an affordable price.