The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a pretty successful offseason. The franchise has made some quality free agent acquisitions and had a strong draft that addressed most of, if not all of, the holes they had on their roster. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh’s 2017 offseason may go down as a failure in the future because the team was unable to address their number one priority.
According to sources familiar with the situation, Pittsburgh’s star running back Le’Veon Bell rejected a five-year extension that would have paid him a whopping $30 million over the next two seasons.
Steelers offer to Le'Veon Bell averaged over $12M per, with $30M in first 2 years, $42M over 3, per sources. Decided to play on $12.1M tag.
— SteelerNation™ (@SteeIerNation) July 18, 2017
Now that the deadline has passed, Bell will play the 2017 season under a one-year deal worth $12.1 million and will again be eligible for free agency at the end of the year. It’s clear that Bell wasn’t happy with the financial terms of the deal and felt that he was getting short-changed by the Steelers’ offer.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) July 18, 2017
While playing out the year on his franchise tender could give him leverage over the Steelers next offseason in theory, Bell is gambling significantly by betting on his health for the upcoming season.
Despite his talent, Bell has had his fair share of injury issues in the past as well as multiple suspensions that have caused him to miss a significant amount of playing time in his short career. In fact, he’s suffered a foot sprain, a hyper extended knee, and a torn MCL in his four years in the league, not to mention a groin injury that limited him to just six carries against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game last season.
Combine his time missed due to injury and the amount of games he’s missed due to suspensions, Bell has only played in 47 out of a possible 64 regular season games in his short career. Despite all this, the Steelers didn’t let his injury history or suspensions factor into their contract offer.
Le'Veon Bell is the best RB in football, but he does realize he's missed about 30% of games since got here, right? https://t.co/WLi9ShfC7H
— Joe Starkey (@JoeStarkey1) July 18, 2017
Bell easily has control over his behavior off the field, but football is a physical game and one awkward tackle could end his season. His stock would take a significant hit if that were to happen and he may not see another contract anywhere near the value of what he was offered this time around. It’s possible that a team would be willing to overpay despite any possible injury that Bell could sustain this upcoming season, but it’s hard to argue that signing with a new team in this hypothetical situation would be a smart idea.
The Steelers are perennial contenders with an open championship window and they have a plan in place to keep that window wide open in rookie quarterback Joshua Dobbs. He also has one of the best offensive lines in football blocking for him and great players at other skill positions, specifically Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger, to put pressure on opposing defenses and give him more running room to work with.
— Blitzburgh (@Steel_Curtain4) June 27, 2017
It’s possible that Bell’s gamble could actually pay off and he’ll force the Steelers to pay him the money he thinks he’s worth, but it’s a gamble nonetheless. He may not see a similar contract offer from the Steelers if he gets hurt and any team that does give him what he wants may not give him an opportunity to play for a championship. No matter how you look at it, Bell is taking quite the risk.
Mike Esposito is the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos Staff Writer at Endzonescore.com. Follow him on Twitter @espo6891