Pittsburgh Steelers: Signing Le’Veon Bell isn’t an option

Le'Veon Bell (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Le'Veon Bell (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have a great running back room, but Le’Veon Bell wouldn’t add much.

Tuesday night, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the New York Jets officially released former All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell. The sudden release initiated a wave of nostalgia amongst Pittsburgh Steelers fans, who advocated for bringing Bell back to the Steel City. While the Steelers don’t have a lot of depth at running back, signing Bell isn’t a wise option.

Before the 2019 season, Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with New York, making him one of the highest-paid running backs in football. The Jets tried to trade Bell earlier this week, but no team wanted to take that massive contract.

Now, New York is eating a chunk of dead cap over the next two years just to get Bell off the roster.

Le’Veon Bell’s struggles in New York

Bell seems ready to sign with a team as soon as possible. The former superstar spent a short stint on IR earlier this season with a hamstring injury, but he’s healthy now. Unfortunately for Bell, he hasn’t put up worthwhile tape with the Jets.

If Todd Gurley, who posted over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns in 2019, had to battle rumors of being washed up this past offseason, then Bell’s stock is in a horrible place.

ESPN’s Rich Cimini released some startling statistics about Bell’s time with the Jets. According to Cimini, the 28-year-old didn’t have a single 20-yard rush during his tenure in New York. Bell’s best game with the Jets featured him generating 129 yards from scrimmage, which he averaged over five years on a per-game basis in Pittsburgh.

During his 17 games with Adam Gase’s team, Bell averaged 3.3 yards per carry and only scored four times.

The Pittsburgh Steelers running back situation

The Steelers have a decent running game this season. Pittsburgh ranks eighth in rushing yards per game with 138.8, but the team hasn’t faced Baltimore or Cleveland yet. Both AFC North rivals have top-five run defenses. Hopefully, James Conner, who already has two 100-yard rushing performances, can keep his hot streak going, but the Steelers haven’t faced any real challenges yet.

Adding Bell would give Pittsburgh some depth if Conner went down. Benny Snell is the backup right now, but he’s wildly inconsistent and often ineffective. Rookie Anthony McFarland Jr. only has nine carries in his career, and Jaylen Samuels is an absolute last resort. Unless Conner gets hurt, signing Bell makes no sense for the Steelers, especially because that dynamic might not work.

As ESPN’s Staff Writer Bill Barnwell says in his article describing Bell’s top potential landing spots,

"Bell would likely be an upgrade on Samuels and a viable back behind an effective Pittsburgh offensive line, but I’m not sure he would get the sort of touches he would want in his bid to reemerge as an option ahead of free agency in 2021. Furthermore, things didn’t exactly end well between the two parties, given that Bell held out for a season before leaving Pittsburgh in free agency."

Bell experienced the best years of his career in Pittsburgh, earning two First-Team All-Pro selections and even entering some Hall of Fame discussions. However, the Steelers don’t want any unnecessary drama or extra baggage this season. They’ve had enough of that over the past three years.

Unlike Antonio Brown, Bell didn’t throw a fit on his way out the door in Pittsburgh. The Steelers franchise-tagged Bell for the second year in a row and the All-Pro decided to sit out the season. He recognized that running backs don’t have extended careers and wanted a long-term deal with plenty of guaranteed money. The Steelers pitched him a few offers, but Bell declined them. While it wasn’t an ideal split, Bell didn’t torch bridges on his way out of town.

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Between working out a low-paying contract, splitting touches, staying off of Twitter, and finding a fit in Pittsburgh’s reworked offense, there are too many potential issues for the Steelers to justify signing Bell. The 28-year-old still has plenty of juice left, but the fit isn’t there anymore. While many fans still have emotional connections to Bell, it’s time to accept that his era in Pittsburgh is over.