This time tomorrow, mercifully, the Pittsburgh Steelers-Le’Veon Bell soap opera will be over. But before then, there’s one more move that should be made:
- Mike Tomlin should call Le’Veon Bell and ask “Do you want to win a Super Bowl?”
That’s a simple question, and one that carries a “Yes” answer for anyone who ever laid their hands on a Nerf football as a kid, barked out a bogus snap count, and faded back in search of connection on one of those “2 completions for a 1st down.”
This is a serious proposal. OK. Mike Tomlin’s eyes will never grace the pages of Steel Curtain Rising, let alone this article.
- But this is still and idea worth executing idea.
As Jim Wexell suggested, Le’Veon Bell likely feels backed into a corner. Although he did threaten a hold out, he also indicated numerous times that he’d be playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018. Yet he’s missed milestone after milestone, and quite possibly feels like sitting out is his only face-saving option.
- And, there’s the business side of this equation to consider too.
Le’Veon Bell has already forfeited 8 million dollars in change, and “only” stands to make about 6.5 million if he signs his franchise tender. 6.5 million dollars for less than a half a season is a lot of money even by NFL standards, but it pales by comparison to what Bell things and probably can make next spring as a free agent.
- All it takes is a torn ACL or blown Achilles and Le’Veon Bell’s 2019 signing bonus drops exponentially.
And that’s why Mike Tomlin should call Le’Veon Bell, and ask, “Hey Le’V, we want to win a world championship? Do you want to help?”
Because that’s one bargaining chip the Steelers still have, because money can buy you a lot of things, but it can’t buy you a Lombardi Trophy or Super Bowl ring as Daniel Snyder and Neil O’Donnell can attest.
It is true that if James Conner continues to play at this level and remains healthy, the Steelers strictly speaking don’t need Le’Veon Bell.
- The operative phrase above is “If James Conner stays healthy.”
As mentioned here last week, James Conner’s bruising running style carries costs. Moreover, while Stevan Ridley and Jaylen Samuels are not bad backups, but at this point I’d still rather have the 2010 or 2011 edition of Isaac Redman as my number two. Mike Tomlin vowed to run Willie Parker until the wheels fell off, and as noted here in August, during the Tomlin era the Steelers have struggled to keep RB 1 and RB2 healthy until season’s end.
- Viewed this way, Le’Veon Bell signing his franchise tender even at this late date is a win-win for both sides.
The Steelers get an immediate upgrade to the depth behind James Conner. Le’Veon Bell pockets 6.5 dollars, or more than his entire rookie contract. He has the luxury of getting into shape, and the security that Mike Tomlin no longer has a need to ride him into the ground.
And, he makes a legitimate AFC Championship contender even stronger.
Is there a Precedent for This Sort of Thing…?
Word is of course, that Le’Veon Bell has already decided to sit. Who knows where that is coming from, but the report surfaced on ESPN and now everyone and his brother is reprinting it like Gospel.
That’s a same, because having James Conner and Le’Veon Bell would give the Steelers their strongest, deepest backfield since 2004 when Bill Cowher had Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley at his disposal.
Perhaps the better analogy would be 2005, when Duce Staley played little, save for a start against Green Bay that helped ensure a win. A win the Steelers needed to make into the playoffs en route to victory in Super Bowl XL.
- Sometimes stories yield their own symmetry.
The last time the Steelers played and defeated the Carolina Panthers was in 2014. The game cost the Steelers the services of Jarvis Jones, then seen as an up and comer. It didn’t take long for the Steelers to hit the Red Phone to James Harrison.
But it wasn’t only Mike Tomlin that picked up the phone. If reports are correct, Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and Brett Keisel called Harrison and encouraged him to come out of retirement.
Mike Tomlin should not only call Le’Veon Bell, but get Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Cam Heyward, Maurkice Pouncey and perhaps Ramon Foster to follow suit. A chorus of “Hey Le’Veon, do you want to win a Super Bowl” just might do the trick.