The Steelers lost at home to the Ravens on Sunday night to drop to 1-2-1, and with the quarter pole of the season behind us things are looking dire if they don’t turn things around in a hurry. It won’t be easy, but they need to swallow their pride, call Le’Veon Bell, tell him how much they value him, perhaps throw in a carrot beyond his weekly paycheck he’d be owed under the provisions of the franchise tag, and get him in the building.
The Steelers have been trying to shop Bell around the league for a trade, but have reportedly found no serious bidders. There is an idea out there that the Steelers cannot offer him more than the $855K he makes per week under the franchise tag, but as Mike Florio pointed out in September, this is not true. They could pay him more money this year. I also wonder if maybe they could work something out with him where they buy an insurance policy giving him protection against loss of value should he get injured in his contract year like Earl Thomas did on Sunday.
Frankly, the Steelers need Bell in their backfield. James Conner is a nice player, but he is a complementary piece and not an elite feature back. He doesn’t glide like Bell does. Against Baltimore, Conner had 9 carries for 19 yards and had 3 receptions for 25 yards. In two games against the Ravens last season, Bell had 48 carries for 192 yards, 13 catches for 119 yards, and five total touchdowns.
Pittsburgh’s season obviously isn’t dead quite yet, but things are getting dire quickly. The Bengals and Ravens are both 3-1. Before their bye in two weeks, the Steelers play the Falcons at home and Bengals on the road. Let’s say they split those games, they’d be 2-3-1, and they’d need to finish the season 8-2 to get to 10 wins. Anything less than that is very dicy for getting into the playoffs. You could conceivably get in at 9-6-1 but you need a lot of help outside your own destiny.
If the Steelers did get anything in return for Bell, it definitely wouldn’t be a player or players who could have as much of an impact as he could now. They should make the call and figure out how to clear the air and get him into the fold before their season slips away.