Are Steelers trying to get Le’Veon Bell to not show up?

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Something strange seems to be happening when it comes to the Steelers and running back Le'Veon Bell, as his final reporting deadline for 2018 approaches. And it could be that the Steelers are trying, in not so subtle fashion, to persuade Bell not to show up at all this year.

That’s the only way to explain the sudden emergence of a report from NFL Network — owned directly by the league and partially by the Steelers — that Bell would be eligible for the quarterback franchise tender in 2019, regardless of whether he signs his franchise tender in order to get contractual credit for 2018.

First, the language of the labor deal supports a plausible argument that, if Bell doesn’t play in 2018, his status would be tolled by a year. Second, the NFL and its teams aren’t in the habit of caving preemptively on plausible arguments that could be made within the confines of a formal grievance. Third, and perhaps most importantly, Bell’s camp was under the clear impression when his regular-season holdout began in September that he had to show up by the Tuesday after Week 10 in order to force the Steelers to use the quarterback franchise tender, if he were tagged again in 2019.

So why would the Steelers and/or the league concede this important point now, a week before Bell’s poop-or-get-off-the-pot deadline for 2018? The logical explanation is that the Steelers simply don’t want him to show up, and that this is their way of sending a clear message that, if he doesn’t show up, they won’t apply the franchise tag again in 2019.

Of course, if he doesn’t show up, the Steelers and the league wouldn’t be prevented from arguing that the 2018 tender applies in 2019. For now, though, the objective could be to get him to not show up, which would allow the Steelers to save nearly $6 million, to avoid the distractions inherent to bringing Bell back into the fold, and to not permit him to be signed by a team like the Ravens or the Patriots if the Steelers were to rescind the franchise tender, making Bell a free agent.

There’s no other reasonable explanation for the league’s decision to use its media platform as a megaphone for the notion that the Steelers, as a practical matter, can’t use the franchise tag on Bell again in 2019. The league isn’t in the business of surrendering potentially valid legal arguments under the CBA, and the league definitely isn’t in the business of permitting its in-house media conglomerate to tip the league’s hand, which is one of the very real benefits of the NFL and its teams owning the media conglomerate that covers the NFL and its teams. It seems that the Steelers simply want Bell to choose not to show up in 2018, and if he believes that he’ll have a straight shot to the open market in March without incurring any injury risk this season, why wouldn’t he?

Even if, come February, the Steelers tag him again and the NFL argues that the amount is $14.54 million, not the quarterback tender.

For more on this, check out Wednesday’s #PFTPM podcast.

97 responses to “Are Steelers trying to get Le’Veon Bell to not show up?

  1. The Pats getting Bell is everyone’s worst fear. As Reagan used to say, you want your opponent reacting to things you could do, you don’t actually have to do them ( star wars, NATO nukes, etc.)

  2. This guy hasn’t done much for his popularity and marketability. He’s definitely talented, but he didn’t play this hand well. From what I can tell, even some Steeler fans and teammates have grown tired of him.

  3. Makes sense for the Steelers. I’d wager he’d be a bigger distraction than whatever production he can put on the field. The Steelers are looking a lot better now, riding a wave of wins and have tough games coming up, no need for the media circus. That being said, I’d show up if I were Bell. Already left enough money on the table as it is.

  4. Trying reverse psychology. Tell him they want him. Willing to pay $855k a week, a $70m contract offer. Rag him twice. He stays away.

    Maybe if they hint they want him to stay away … He shows?

  5. If the team didn’t want him to disrupt the good thing they have going, couldn’t they just suspend him upon return for conduct detrimental?

  6. Does anyone know how this situation can work out? Is it me, or like 9 days ago I thought there was zero question he had to show up by next Tuesday to get credit for this year toward his free agency eligibility? Now everyone is claiming a different possibility. I don’t get it.

  7. Even if Bell sits out the rest of the year…name one good reason they should tag him again…deal with the circus…all the while wasting away valuable cap space…? I’m all ears…

  8. Steelers simply don’t need the headache heading down the stretch. Sure a healthy football ready Bell would be a boost, but not at the expense of your locker room.

  9. at this point it’s a two-lane road: he either shows up by tue, or he doesn’t. and for right now bell holds the cards — only he knows what he’s doing. i’m certain both parties have plans in place for either road.

  10. Help (Me) Wanted:

    Injury prone, twice suspended doper RB who has never played a full NFL season. Demand to be the highest paid RB based on combined running and receiving skills. Experience with quitting on team during playoff game, turning down great offers, and disappearing for over half a season, leaving team, fellow teammates and fan base behind the 8-ball. Probably no better than the team’s current starting RB who makes less in a season than I make in a week.

    Call me early next year.

    I’m looking at you Daniel Snyder.

  11. .
    At this point Bell is more of a hindrance than a help. If he returns the media would instantly forget the other 52 players on the roster.

  12. Release Bell and that he will not show up. It would not be surprising if he does not show up at all. Just release this cancer in the locker room and move onto Conner. Who has done a great job and lets his play do the talking.

  13. If LeVeon gets played then it would be even worse than Randy Moss getting suckered by Tom Brady and the Patriots into not playing because they dangled a contract to play for the Patriots.

  14. Couldn’t they apply the transition tag next year, let someone sign an offer sheet, match it and trade him to that team? I’ve heard that scenario offered a few times

  15. Bell tried to pull a fast one on the Steelers sounds like it may backfire on him. Anyone who decides to leave now over nine million on the table hard to feel to sorry for . The articles continue to make the Steelers the bad boys on this yet Bell is the one who choose to let the money sit there.

  16. Do you have to go to a special school or receive special training to become as stoopid as Le’Veon, or does it just come naturally?

  17. Oh yeah it’s def the team – dude has been literally banging on the door since January, phoning Steelers 8 times a day too, trying to get in.

  18. Guess what? L Bell ain’t playing and football goes on.

    Enough drama from a dude who makes more $$$ per game than most make in 10 years. Our sympathy is lost on this guy and his “hardships” has never been there.

    His whole situation is stupid. Stop writing about him… He’ll be back in a flash.

  19. If Pittsburgh’s org doesn’t want him to show up and they don’t have intentions of tagging him next season, then why didn’t they trade him before the deadline?

  20. Remember when Mike Wallace turned down more than respectable money because he overestimated his worth and skill set, so Pittsburgh gave it to Antonio Brown instead? That turned out wonderfully for Pittsburgh and I’m having some deja vu over here.

    Go Steelers!

  21. It should be pretty clear to Bell’s crack advisory team the Steelers aren’t going to be paying their client $14M next year, through tag or salary/bonus, let alone the QB level tag money.

    The team is doing well, they have a legit shot at a title, and the fanbase has rallied to James Conner (and frankly are more worried about the defense). He’s free to go.

    Give this to Bell: If he’s comfy in Miami and can swing staying there, he might make the money back just on no income taxes.

    Hope it works out for him, he was a great player. Maybe still is.

  22. Tender, transition or tag, it doesn’t matter; this train already left the station. Bell is done in Pittsburgh.

  23. They got a dude on rookie deal that is just as productive, why let him play for competitor?? Sweet deal for the Steelers, if you ask me

  24. I dunno….It wouldn’t shock me, if they were trying to discourage him from showing up. I mean, I sure wouldn’t want that cancer in my locker room.

  25. This is the Reason why the Steelers with so much talent won’t win a Superbowl.They love Drama.I personally would of traded him and moved on but nope another year of Steelers Drama and Diva show.

  26. Look, Le’Veon Bell is not a choir boy, here. He was suspended once already for substance abuse and he also turned down a lot of money which the Steelers offered him, because he says he should be paid like a WR.
    I’m glad the Steelers are holding fast against him and wish other teams would do the same with their head-case stars. Look at the Giants — they’re probably already regretting all that money they handed to Odell Beckham.
    The Steelers have never caved in to their stars and I respect them for not doing that. It’s what the Patriots do, too. They are two of the most successful and stable organizations for a reason.
    The best part is, Bell will never make up all the money he’s lost this year by holding out. I think that’s funny. It shows how foolish he is.

  27. Le’Veon, do yourself a favor. Call Tom Condon. He’s Sam Bradford’s agent. The agent you have now sucks and has cost you a fortune. You’ve totally overplayed your hand.

  28. We’ve written about it. It’s complicated and risky, and it’s not in the Steelers’ DNA to operate this way.

  29. I think the Steelers R OK without him. Bell proved that to them.
    I would not want him back, but the Steelers need to get something for him.
    Why hasn’t, or maybe there was a NFL team looking to trade for him? Maybe a sign and trade deal. I wonder why something or some other team is not interested in getting Bell some way.

  30. I think you’re making more out of this than there is. Occam’s razor, he shows up Tuesday and plays out the rest of the year and leaves as a free agent. $6 million is cheap for an All Pro backup RB at a position prone to injury and not having to face him in the playoffs, say with the Patriots or Ravens.
    And the Steelers should know the value of having a good back up at RB for a playoff run when Bell went down in 2014, missed the playoffs and had to ride Ben Tate, who they signed off the street. Then again in 2016, Bell gets hurt, misses playoffs and FitzNoMagic Toussiant fumbles away a playoff game in Denver. And finally the 2017 AFC Championship, Bell pulls up lame in the 1st quarter and the Steelers had to turn to an old Deangelo Williams. You may not have a franchise QB if you have two but you definitely have a chance with two All Pro RBs.

  31. The NFL have no interest in seeing a holdout doing ANYTHING but fall flat on his fat greedy face . . . he might even end up with no interest from any of the thirty-two teams. Now there’s real justice!

  32. This relationship between Bell and the Steelers is way to toxic at this point they just need to part ways after this season and go on about their own respective business. Connor is a very solid 2 down running back whom the Steelers should look adding a compliment to via the 2019 draft by drafting a 3rd down back who excels as a pass catching receiver . Arizona drafted a guy like who’s extremely talented and willl be very good in the future in RB/WR Chase Edmonds, the Steelers need to add a back like that like a Dion Lewis type who’s preferably atleast 5″10-205 so they can put him in the slot at times to use as a receiver. I think we will see PIT add a back like that in the mid rounds of the 19 draft.

  33. either way, fix the language in the collective bargaining agreement or more players will adopt this route to free agency. The NFL is not in the business of seeing their top players sitting out.

  34. Unless they are gonna lay him to stay home the Steelers can kick rocks. He has every right to be there and get his money unless they pull the tag which would look very bad. At this point a little awkwardness would be worth 6 million. Show up get your money and when the playoffs start leave.

  35. Bell is a good/great young back. Not worth what he thinks he is worth. Once he figures that out, he will be a productive member of a team.

    However, the Steelers are done with his drama. Especially now that Conner is playing so well.

  36. Lets be honest here. Connor is playing great and the Steelers don’t want to mess that up….especially given that he is their future RB. But injuries occur. Having Bell available just in case is a great insurance policy. But they need to get him back into game shape. It’s not like he is going to just come into a late season or playoff game after not having played for a year. They should work an agreement with him that he comes back, practices, takes on some minimal load as Connor’s backup and takes over the starting position in the event that Connor can’t play. It will reduce the wear-and-tear on Bell (which seemed important to him) and he also gets paid. The Steelers have an insurance policy heading into the postseason.

  37. strunzi26 says:
    November 7, 2018 at 11:51 pm
    If Pittsburgh’s org doesn’t want him to show up and they don’t have intentions of tagging him next season, then why didn’t they trade him before the deadline?

    I think it’s because he isn’t under contract, so he’s technically not theirs to trade.

    kenmasters34 says:
    November 8, 2018 at 8:42 am
    If the Steelers dont want Leveon to show up, cant they just pull the tag?

    I believe if they pull the tag, he becomes a free agent and can sign anywhere. They’d prefer he not play for anyone else this year.

  38. For any Seinfeld fan out there, this situation totally reminds me of Kramer’s (second) holdout on H + H Bagels..:)

  39. Maybe they read the clause that says he gets the QB tender if they apply the franchise tag for a third time. Regardless whether he signs that will happen so they really don’t have an argument to stand on otherwise.

    That said, I do suspect that the Steelers don’t want him around. If he flies to Pittsburgh he may even be able to get them to rescind the tag if they don’t want him bad enough.

  40. Also, it seems to me a good solution for the players to the franchise tag situation would be to require teams to guarantee (for injury only) the franchise tag salary for a second year. That way the player is covered if he gets hurt playing on the tag.

  41. I keep seeing rumors that Bell wants out of Pittsburgh & wishes
    to play for New England ?
    I just wonder why IF true he thinks by his current actions –
    Belichick the “disciplinarian” would want to sign him ?
    I know Belichick & Kraft are all about winning but NOT at the detriment to team.
    And Bell has done absolutely nothing to dispel the idea that he IS anything but
    a diva & locker room cancer!

  42. strunzi26 says:
    November 7, 2018 at 11:51 pm

    If Pittsburgh’s org doesn’t want him to show up and they don’t have intentions of tagging him next season, then why didn’t they trade him before the deadline?

    Can’t trade him until he signs his contract. He intentionally didn’t sign before the trade deadline so that he could not possibly be traded.

  43. carloswlassiter says:
    November 8, 2018 at 9:56 am

    The Steelers are terrified this guy ends up in New England.

    As a Steelers fan, I know I am.

  44. Thank goodness this story ends one way or the other next week. The poor horse has been beaten to death. This is as exciting as the inevitable litigation following elections for the local school board in today’s society. At this point, the only reason the Steelers would want the guy to show up is for insurance purposes if Conner gets hurt. Bell certainly doesn’t perform at any higher statistical level than Conner, although he costs about 20x. Like election litigation, nice when it ends and we don’t have to hear constant droning on the subject.

  45. If it is true that he would get the QB franchise price then I believe Bell won this battle. If they tried to tag him again, which they wont, he would get paid for practically two seasons and only playing one.

    If it’s not true Bell still wins in my opinion. As many of you point Bell is losing a lot of money right now. With that said he’s also made a lot too. He will get more than 14m guaranteed on his next contract without the risk of a career ending injury. If he played this year and had a career ending injury 14m would have been his ceiling. 14m is now his starting point. When you dont have money you take risks. When you have all the money in the world you make business decisions. This was a business decision.

  46. Bill Belichick is in love with Le’Veon wouldn’t be surprised if he gives him the money he deserves just to stick it to the Steelers for being cheap. I know the Pats are notoriously cheap, but you get a shot at the most versatile tailback in the league. No it’s not Gurley, he’s amazing but the scheme creates a lot for him.

  47. Le’Veon made one of the smartest business decisions I’ve seen an NFL player make. Puts pressure to fix the CBA and is making a huge sacrifice so players don’t leave the game with empty pockets.

  48. Side note. There is a lot of emotion in the team and a lot of frustration with how Bell has handled this, relative to being fans of the team. I used to be a huge fan. Now, he kinda turns me off.

    But. Management of the team is an objective not subjective job. And I hope all these frustrations and sense of punishment and such are only in the fan’s court.

    Given his salary this year is accounted for under the cap. Given that there are no real alternative transactions available to the team this year. I think having a second good running back who is willing to play in the playoffs (under the tender he is not obligated to as I understand it) is a very good decision in terms of doing everything as a management to win the Super Bowl.

    We all know he is a unique offensive talent, and great Connor’s play has not changed that fact. Worst case we have two good backs, best case, if one get’s hurt, we are not completely decimated …

    I look at the situation and I think Colbert needs to sit with Bell and determine what he needs to put on the table to have Bell agree to play through the playoffs. That’s it. Nothing else. Winning is an all in proposition. If he does not do everything he could the message is clear.

  49. Looks to me like Bell is doing what my children sometimes do. Make a massive mistake, and instead of owning it and accepting your “L”, double down and keep digging out of spite because that dose of humility is just too much.

  50. “Mike Florio says:
    November 8, 2018 at 6:15 am
    They couldn’t trade him because he didn’t show up”



    So there’s never been a case where a team, that’s interested in trading for a disgruntled player, is allowed to negotiate with said player/agent and give that player a new contract in conjunction with the trade offer? This isn’t rocket science. I understand not trading him to another team in your division, or conference for that matter, but they couldn’t find a team in the NFC who was willing to give him a new contract along getting their 1st round pick or more in future drafts? If the Cowboys were willing to give their 1st to the Raiders for Cooper, I have to believe there’d be some other NFC teams out there that would have be willing to give at least a 1st rounder, and maybe more, for Bell, as well as giving Bell a new 3-4yr deal. In fact, if you’re going to give up a 1st rounder for a player, you damn well better lock that player in by reworking their deal beyond 1 or 2 seasons. It’s not a matter of caving to a disgruntled player, but rather getting something of value from them that will help your organization’s future.

  51. @strunzi26 They couldn’t trade him because he never signed his tender. As it stands, Bell is in no man’s land. He can’t negotiate with another team, nor can the Steelers move him. The only option is sign or don’t sign. The Steelers also can’t negotiate now for next year, even if he does sign.

  52. @strunzi26

    Neither the Steelers nor a potential trade partner can do anything more than a handshake deal with Bell at this point. He has to play under the franchise tender this season, even if he had signed it and been traded. He can’t sign a new deal until the offseason, so he’d be counting on not getting injured and on the team he was playing for keeping its word and offering the handshake deal officially in the offseason.

    Ultimately, I think he’s made a disastrous choice. His attitude combined with the success of James Conner should significantly decrease the amount of money teams will offer him.

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