Le’Veon Bell continues to hover over the Steelers despite the team’s best efforts to move on from the circus that Bell’s ongoing holdout has created. The Steelers, as a whole, haven’t openly discussed Bell and his situation since several players openly criticized him after it became clear that he wouldn’t be back in time to play in Pittsburgh’s season opener agains the Cleveland Browns. That being said, the Steelers continue to be asked about Bell. Mike Tomlin said that he would not longer discuss Bell during his weekly press conference on Tuesday, two days after reports surfaced that the Steelers are listening to trade offers for Bell.
While Pittsburgh is trying to move on from Bell, Pittsburgh Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey did speak openly about his teammate in a story written by Jenny Vrentas of SI.com. Pouncey was among Pittsburgh’s players that were openly critical of Bell when Bell elected not to show up in time to play in the team’s season-opener.
“Honestly, I don’t [understand his strategy] at all, and I really don’t care for it,” said Pouncey, Bell’s teammate since 2013. “If it was me in that situation, and I signed a franchise tag, if I didn’t get the deal done before the deadline, then I’m just giving money back at that point. And I just feel like, for me, I would just feel like there’s no point of doing that at all.”
Would Pouncey welcome Bell back into the fold if he did re-join the Steelers at some point this season?
“[James] Conner has done a great job,” Pouncey said, “and I wouldn’t mind having him at running back the whole entire year.”
While no one truly knows, it appears that the Steelers, to a man, have accepted and are now OK with the fact that they may never play with Bell again. That doesn’t mean, however, that Bell will unequivocally never play for Pittsburgh again, something that seemed to be a definitive fact following Sunday’s trade rumors. As more (unnamed) NFL executives speak out about the complications of trying to sign him, it seems more and more clear that Bell’s best chance at playing football in 2018 would be with the Steelers, who could still pay him his entire franchise tag of $14.54 million if he signed his tag at any point this season.
Bell’s agent, Adisa Bakari, recently told ESPN’s Lisa Salters that Bell does want to play this season after many speculated that Bell may be planning to skip the 2018 season while waiting for the 2019 free agency season to begin. If the Steelers can’t find the right trade partner, and if Bell does want to play in 2018, that could result in an awkward reunion between Bell and some of his teammates if and when he elects to return to Pittsburgh this season.
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