The regular-season holdout of Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell banked in many respects on the Steelers not being able to replace him. But replace him they have, with second-year standout James Conner, the AFC’s offensive player of the month for October. And the stellar performances of Conner, a fan favorite before he even wore a Steelers jersey for the first time due to his connection to Pitt and his triumph over cancer, have made it much easier for the Steelers to forget about Bell.
“Honestly, no one cares anymore,” guard David DeCastro said after Sunday’s win over the Ravens, via Jeff Chadiha of NFL.com. “Why would I? I don’t want to waste the energy. I have to block some of the best players on the best defense in the world. Do you think I’m going to worry about a guy who’s not here?”
That’s been the attitude within the organization for several weeks, thanks in large part to the play of Conner. Indeed, if Conner currently weren’t getting it done and no one else was fueling the running game or the short passing game, there would have been a much greater sense of urgency to offer Bell more than $855,000 per week to get him to commit for the balance of the season.
As it stands, the attitude is “Le’Veon who?”
“I love playing with Conner,” left tackle Alejandro Villanueva said after the win, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I don’t have anything to say about Le’Veon. I don’t even know what shape he is in right now.”
Right now, Bell has eight days to show up or not at all for 2018. The Steelers may prefer that he stay away. If/when he shows, it could get awkward — especially if he’s not reinstalled as the starter unless and until Conner gets injured or becomes noticeably ineffective.