The NFL season starts this week and there’s still no sign of Le’Veon Bell at the Pittsburgh Steelers practice facilities. The elite running back and all-around offensive weapon has been holding out, mad that the Steelers once again placed the franchise tag on him instead of offering him a long-term contract in line with his impressive production numbers.
Last year, Bell ended his holdout in time to play in Week 1. This year, however, he looks set to really dig in and potentially miss the majority of the season in an effort to preserve his health. And now his teammates are started to get pissed off.
“What do you do? Here’s a guy who doesn’t give a damn, I guess, so we’ll treat it as such. I just hate it came to this,” guard Ramon Foster said according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Ed Bouchette.
“He’s making seven times what I make, twice as much as Al (Villanueva) is making, and we’re the guys who do it for him,” Foster added.
Ramon Foster on Bell turning down nearly $1M a week to not be here: "In the ultimate team sport we’ve created a league of individuals."
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) September 5, 2018
Center Maurkice Pouncey was also critical of Bell, calling him foolish for listening to his agent’s advice.
“Why play hide and seek? Why let your agent say this? Just man up and tell us what you’re going to do,” Pouncey said, per NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala.
“The business part … I get it. But not if it’s game day. We have a game this Sunday, we’re all the way into the game plan, and you’re still not here?” he added. “Honestly it’s a little selfish. I’m kinda pissed right now. It sucks that he’s not here. We’ll move on as a team. It doesn’t look like he’ll be in the game plan (for Week 1) at this point. (James) Conner looks great. We’ll worry about him in Week 2.”
“Just sit out the whole year then,” spouted guard David DeCastro.
If Bell does continue his holdout, the Steelers may not see him until Week 11. At that point, he needs to at least go through the motions of being on the team so that the 2018 season counts as a year of service time, enabling him to hit free agency next offseason.
Steelers quarterback Ben Rothlisberger was slightly more diplomatic with his response.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons. We’d like to have him (Bell) out there but we’ve got guys that can make plays for us,” Roethlisberger said according to Joe Rutter of TribLIVE.com.
“One person doesn’t make or break you, so I’d like to say that the linemen are more important than any skill position player, including myself, on this team. This offense is more than just one guy,” he added.
Bell will forfeit his Week 1 paycheck of $850,000 if he doesn’t report by 4:00 P.M. on Saturday, and will lose the same amount every week until he does. He’s set to make $14.54 million this season under the franchise tag. If he plays, that is.