Tim Benz: Don’t buy Le’Veon Bell’s apparent concern about Steelers trading him

November 10, 2018

Another potential reporting date. Another day without Le’Veon Bell at Pittsburgh Steelers headquarters.

Some of Bell’s teammates, who were previously agitated about those days ticking off the calendar, appear bemused now.

“I’m enjoying the ride just like you guys,” center Maurkice Pouncey said with a grin. “I want to see how it plays out.”

First it was training camp. Then, Week 1 of the regular season. Then, the Monday of the bye week. Then, the Monday after the bye week.

All of those potentially logical days for Le’Veon Bell to end his franchise-tag-induced absence from the Steelers have come and gone.

Now, perhaps buoyed by consecutive wins over Atlanta and Cincinnati, the anger in the voices of the Steelers offensive linemen has dissipated. Once a group that seemed betrayed when Bell stayed away, it appears to be dismissive of any concerns now.

“We were disappointed that he wasn’t here (before Week 1),” guard David DeCastro told me. “But, after that, you just kind of move on.”

The most interesting development during this weekend’s episode of “As The Running Back Turns” was an ESPN report from Adam Schefter.

“There are some sources around the league who believe that because Bell does not want to be traded, he will wait until after the NFL’s Oct. 30 trade deadline to return to work,” Schefter wrote.

What? Why? That doesn’t make any sense. I’m not doubting Schefter’s reporting. I’m doubting Bell’s logic.

And, if you’ve ever read this column, you probably know it’s not for the first time.

Since he stayed away from training camp last season, Bell has prioritized guaranteed dollars in free agency over remaining in Pittsburgh long term. So why does playing out 2018 in Pittsburgh matter so much to him now?

What difference does $850,000 per week the rest of this season matter if it’s paid to him here, or if he is cashing those checks in another city after a trade?

Come to think of it, maybe if he was to be dealt to a team starved for a running back, Bell could lay the foundation for a whopper of a contract from his new team after this season ends. Even though a new agreement isn’t allowed to be worked out this season, Bell’s agent, Adisa Bakari, could start informal talks with Organization X in regard to a new deal starting in 2019.

Plus, there is the issue of how many offensive snaps Bell would play. Staying in Pittsburgh means he’d probably play in more high-leverage games, and maybe into the postseason. If the Steelers were to trade him to a non-contender, that club’s season may end sooner. And if that team has designs on keeping Bell beyond 2018, they may be more judicious in how they use him if the team plays poorly in November.

A carry in Pittsburgh is the same as a carry in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco or Indianapolis. The injury risk Bell would be assuming is the same wherever he would play the last few weeks.

Why the attachment to Black and Gold all of a sudden? I thought he was mad the Steelers didn’t share his opinion that he should be paid as a star player at two positions at once? I thought he was upset fans and media in Pittsburgh were making him a “target” or a “villain.”

I suppose the argument could be made by Bell that if he has to tempt fate with injury during the remainder of 2018, he might as well do it on a team that could be playing on a big stage. Maybe the reward of playoff success mitigates his concerns over another blown-up knee.

But, as outlined above, you can’t get playoff glory without a bigger workload. You can’t chase a ring without slogging through two or three additional AFC playoff games.

To that point, in the 2016 playoffs, Bell had 69 touches in two full games and one quarter of the AFC Championship. He had 25 touches against Jacksonville in the loss at Heinz Field last January.

So I don’t get the alleged “don’t trade me” stance now.

If Bell winds up staying in Pittsburgh and playing out his contract in good faith, let’s not allow these recent circumstances to eventually get confused. Bell’s end game is cash. It’s not cloaking himself in the Terrible Towel, even if this latest report -- if accurate -- portrays the running back as doing so.

For almost two full years now, Bell has positioned himself as the ultimate mercenary. From rap lyrics dating to 2015, his platform for success has been based on his income. Not his Super Bowl ring collection or his legacy in Pittsburgh.

It makes zero sense for him to change that tune now.

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