Did Le'Veon Bell mislead the Steelers? 'Not my fault you literally thought I'd do the same thing' as 2017
One of the Steelers best players could be back with the team in three weeks
Le'Veon Bell is entering Week 5 of what now appears to be a seven-week holdout. Unlike last year, when Bell reported 10 days before the regular-season opener, one of the Steelers best players has remained at home. This development came as news to the organization, including teammates, some of whom called Bell "selfish" for his actions.
But on Monday the running back told ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler that he plans to report to Pittsburgh during the team's Week 7 bye week, and was a no-show to save himself from possible injuries that would affect his ability to get the lucrative long-term deal the Steelers wouldn't give him.
And while Bell's teammates never took issue with his lingering contract situation -- reportedly turned down contracts the last two offseasons that would have made him the NFL's highest-paid back -- issues arose when Bell wasn't completely forthright about his plan to skip the first month (and counting) of the regular season. Hours before the Steelers met the Browns in the season opener, NFL Network's Peter Schrager reported that former Steelers quarterback Michael Vick had spoken with left guard Ramon Foster, who said Bell told the offensive linemen he'd report before Week 1. When he didn't, "they called and texted and couldn't get a straight response from him back," according to Schrager.
But on Monday, when Bell was asked about the perception that he misled his teammates, he told a different story.
"This second year on the tag, everybody thought I would do what I did on the first tag and assumed a certain thing and it offended a lot of people," Bell told Fowler. "That's not my fault you literally thought I'd do the same thing. Everybody thinks I'm bluffing. That's not the person I am. I've always been a stubborn kid. When I have my mind set, that's what I'm going to do."
It's also worth noting that Bell's agent, Adisa Bakari, said in July that "barring something exceptional" Bell would join the Steelers around Labor Day.
In a league where contracts aren't guaranteed (unless you're Kirk Cousins), we fully support Bell's decision to get as much as he can, but the issue is -- and always has been -- how we went about it. Keeping your current team in the dark is an interesting strategy because the 31 other teams that may consider paying you more than $15 million a season are watching.
But the Steelers are in no position to be sore; they're currently 1-2-1, tied for last in the division with the Browns, have one of the league's most inept defenses and a one-dimensional offense. They'll almost certainly welcome Bell back with open arms, assuming, of course, their season won't already be over by then.
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