Thursday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers walked onto the field against a Panthers defense allowing 22.5 points per game. Their offense exerted their will throughout the entire football game, starting from their first possession. Six different Steelers’ offensive players scored touchdowns, as the team as a whole put up 52 points. Pittsburgh now stands at 6-2-1, leading the AFC North and are in the race for a postseason bye.
Le’Veon Bell held out the entire preseason and has done the same so far in the regular season. However, in order for him to be a free agent in the upcoming offseason and make the big bucks he wants, Bell must return by the Tuesday before Week 11 games start. That’s this upcoming Tuesday, meaning Bell has approximately three days to sign his franchise tag. While Bell flew back from Miami to Pittsburgh this week, he still hasn’t re-joined the Steelers organization.
When he’s on the field, Bell is arguably the best running back in football; but he hasn’t been on the field since January of this year. Since starting a dreadful 1-2-1, the Steelers have turned their season around with five straight wins. Their offense is flowing with a multitude of weapons. Bell’s backup in James Connor, currently ranks second in the NFL with both 10 rushing touchdowns and 771 rushing yards. So should the Steelers want star running back Le’Veon Bell to return?
No matter how well the team is playing, it seems like a no-brainer to add an All-Pro in his prime. The main argument to be made for not playing Bell the rest of the season is chemistry. Pittsburgh is flowing right now, especially on offense where all of their players seem to get along and fit together. Bringing Le’Veon back might disrupt that chemistry simply due to the fact that he has neither practiced nor played with the team since way back in January of last season. It will at least take a few games for Bell to get back into synch with the team. Pittsburgh may not think that step backwards to get better later is worth potentially falling behind in the race for a first-round playoff bye.
In addition, many of Bell’s colleagues have called him out in some way or another. Back at the beginning of the season, when Bell first announced his hold-out, two of his O-linemen called him out. David Decastro (Last year an All-Pro himself) and Ramon Foster told the media Bell was putting himself before the team and makes enough money. As recently as last week, Head Coach Mike Tomlin said, “We want volunteers here, not hostages.” He essentially said that they don’t want him to return if he doesn’t actually care about helping the team. Finally, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger dismissed a question about Bell after Pitt’s Thursday Night victory by replying, “I’m only gonna talk about players in the locker room.”
While it was always going to take time for Bell to recreate chemistry with his teammates on the field, it seems like he will need to build it back with them off the field as well.
James Connor Injury
One big situation from the Panthers game may have changed the Steelers’ view on this Le’Veon Bell situation. In the fourth quarter, Connor left the game with a head injury and now is under concussion protocol. If Connor misses a couple of games, Pittsburgh will need to replace him in the backfield. Who better to replace him with than the best running back in the NFL?
The Steelers will monitor James Connor’s injury throughout the week, but only have until Tuesday to decide on Bell.
So Should the Steelers want Le’Veon Bell Back?
At the end of the day, the Pittsburgh Steelers need to welcome Bell back with open arms. First of all, he is an All-Pro running back in his prime, possibly the best player at his position. After Bell gets back into NFL shape, he is going to improve any team in the league. His teammates, even if some of them continue to hold a grudge, will allow winning more games to surpass their frustration with Bell. Finally, even if the Steelers wanted to keep giving carries to James Connor, they could use Bell as both a slot receiver and pass blocker, two things at which he excels.
Further, the uncertainty surrounding the James Connor injury gives Pitt even less cause to pause. In a poetically timed scenario, the Steelers truly need Bell at this point in the season. They should, and most likely will, allow Le’Veon Bell to sign the franchise tag and make a return to the field as soon as he is ready.
When Bell does return to form and Connor returns to the field, the combination of those two along with Big Ben, Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster will tear down opposing defenses. Bell’s return will allow Pitt to rival the Chiefs and Saints as the best offense in the NFL.
Featured image by Getty Images
“From Our Haus to Yours”