Le’Veon Bell has apparently not burned his bridges in Pittsburgh.
On Sunday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Steelers were indeed interested in trading for Bell before Tuesday’s deadline. The Jets fielded calls from several NFL teams that were interested in possibly trading for several of New York’s best players that included Bell, safety Jamal Adams and receiver Robby Anderson. The Jets, 1-6 heading into Sunday’s road game against the winless Dolphins, ultimately decided not to trade Bell, Adams or Anderson.
Bell said that, according to his agent, the Steelers were among the teams that were interested in trading for him before the deadline. On Sunday, Schefter said that the Steelers thought James Conner’s knee injury — sustained in Pittsburgh’s Week 8 win over Miami — was significant enough to consider trading for Bell, who played with the Steelers from 2013-17 before sitting out the entire 2018 season over a contract dispute. Pittsburgh will be without both Conner and rookie running back Jaylen Samuels for Sunday’s game against the Colts. Second year running back Jaylen Samuels will get the start.
Despite his messy exit from Pittsburgh, the Steelers obviously have no ill will towards Bell, who became an All-Pro after being a mostly under-the-radar second round pick out of Michigan State. After breaking Franco Harris’ franchise rookie yards from scrimmage record, Bell earned All-Pro and team MVP honors in 2014 after amassing 2,215 all-purpose yards while catching 83 passes, a franchise record for receptions in a season by a running back.
Bell’s best season as a Steeler took place in 2016, when he amassed 1,884 total yards in just 12 regular season games. That season, Bell won team MVP honors for a second time while setting the franchise regular and postseason single game record for rushing yards in a game. His 170 yards against the Chiefs propelled Pittsburgh to their first AFC title game appearance since 2010.
“We had our opportunities,” Bell said of his time in Pittsburgh, via Gary Myers of The Athletic. “We played the Patriots in 2016 in the AFC Championship Game. I was playing hurt, I barely could run and didn’t practice the whole week leading up to the game. Then on my first carry, I felt it in my groin. I had to come out of the game. I tried to go back in just because I knew what was at stake and I wanted to go the Super Bowl so bad. I’m thinking if we win this game, we got two weeks until the Super Bowl. I was trying to get to that game. It didn’t happen. We had our opportunities. The year we kind of blew it we didn’t play well and lost to Jacksonville in the 2017 playoffs. I felt that could have been our year. I was healthy and everyone was healthy.”
Bell, who amassed 1,944 total yards in 2017 while playing under the franchise tag, nearly decided to return to the Steelers midway through the 2018 season before deciding to sit out the entire year. A year after turning down a reported five-year, $70 million deal that included $33 million guaranteed over the first two years, Bell signed a four-year, $52 million contract that included $35 million guaranteed.
While he received his coveted, longterm contract, Bell’s 2019 season has gotten off to a rocky start. Through seven games, Bell has scored just two touchdowns while averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. Bell, after speaking to head coach Adam Gase about his lack of touches in the Jets’ Week 8 loss in Jacksonville, hopes to receive a big workload this Sunday against the Dolphins.