Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell admitted that, in hindsight, he should have signed his contract extension with the team instead of holding out.
There is always that moment when sports fans wonder what could have happened if one big-name player remained with the team longer than their initial stay. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, the player fans wonder about is running back Le’Veon Bell.
Back in 2017 and 2018, the Steelers and Bell had contentious contract talks that led to the team placing the franchise tag on him for two consecutive years. But after the second time he received the tag and contract talks went nowhere, Bell decided that he was going to sit out the entire 2018 season, and that’s exactly what he did.
The following offseason, he signed a huge contract with the New York Jets, was released midway through his second season, and is now out of the NFL.
This week, Bell made an appearance on the “Steel Here Podcast,” and spoke about the failed contract talks. The running back then admitted that as of now, he should have taken the deal the Steelers had offered him.
Le’Veon Bell admits he should have taken a contract offer from Steelers
“It was like a little petty, the guarantee stuff . . . I’m thinking could I have just ate it? Yeah, I probably could’ve, yeah, I probably could’ve really ate it,” said Bell, h/t Audacy.
The main issue for Bell was that the Steelers weren’t offering him the guaranteed money he was looking for in the deal. Here’s how he explained it:
“With the Jets, the contract thing was that they had guaranteed me a certain amount of money. It was like $39 million versus Pittsburgh which guaranteed me $17 million. At the time, I had just played on the franchise tag and I was already lowkey chancing because before that I was already being told I was going to get a long-term deal. We didn’t work it out. I did play under the tag because they said they would get me right the next year. The final offer was $13.3 million per year and the franchise tag was like $12 million. You know, the annual was fine but they only guaranteed me the first year of the contract. So, I was basically playing on another franchise tag. I get hurt and you can release me in Year 2. That’s how Pittsburgh does contracts.”
At the start of the 2019 league year, the Jets gave Bell a four-year, $52.5 million contract to become their star running back for then-quarterback Sam Darnold to lean upon. The first year, Bell ran for 789 yards and three touchdowns on 245 carries, while catching 66-of-78 targets for 461 yards and one touchdown in 15 games.
Bell would play in just two games in 2020 before he requested a trade from the Jets. The team ultimately released him from his contract.
For the remainder of that season, Bell signed on with the Kansas City Chiefs, running for 254 yards and two touchdowns on 63 carries. But, he was a non-factor in the Chiefs’ run to Super Bowl 55.
In 2021, Bell spent five games with the Baltimore Ravens and three games with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He didn’t play in the 2022 season.
With the power of hindsight, Bell believes that the right move would have been to stay in Pittsburgh to continue his career and try to replicate the success he had in previous years. But, he decided to join the Jets, which didn’t work out.