The Le’Veon Bell Holdout. What’s the Holdup?

Abrahim Karzai, Staff Writer

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It was September 8th, 2018 and NFL Network reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala was following the ongoing saga involving Pittsburgh Steelers all-pro running back Le’Veon Bell including  just when Bell was expected to report to the Steelers. With just days before their season was set to kick off against their division rival, the Cleveland Browns, Kinkhabwala sent out a tweet at 8:53 AM:

#Steelers have a team meeting at 9am. One of Le’Veon Bell’s teammates just messaged me: no sign of him yet.”              

And now, here we are. Week 3 is about to start. The Steelers are 0-1-1, and still no sign of Bell.

Over the first three weeks we have seen some good – 452 passing yards from Big Ben against the Chiefs – and some bad – only 17 yards on the ground from James Conner against KC. On a day where they put up 37 points, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 65% of his passes, 452 passing yards, 3 passing touchdowns, and even found his way into the endzone on a rushing touchdown, the defense was nowhere to be seen.

While the Pittsburgh offense was not at fault against KC, there was still a sense of something missing. With Bell out, the Steelers have been forced to use second year running back James Conner to lead the ground assault.  After a strong performance in Week 1, Conner came back to earth against the Chiefs, though he managed to find the endzone once.

From the Steelers’ perspective, it would make sense to be frustrated with a franchise talent like Bell refusing to lace up the cleats on Sundays. This is especially troubling when your future hall of fame quarterback is in the 4th quarter in regards to his playing career.

That’s right, one of the biggest issues with Bell is Roethlisberger’s age. With all this drama going on, the public is forgetting Roethlisberger is in his 14th NFL season with extensive wear and tear on him. Each off-season the last few years, we’ve heard rumblings of possible retirement sneaking their way into the conversation. The Steelers must know the ceiling for another Super Bowl victory in the Big Ben era might just be fading.

So the question is this: How do the Steelers get Le’Veon Bell back in the Steel City?

Well, examining Bell’s stance on the issue through his agent, Adisa Bakari, reveals a lot. In an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio back on September 5th, Bakari said:

“The intelligent player understands that I first have to focus on self before I can revert or divert my interest back to the collective, to the team.”

This may scream selfishness to Steeler Nation, however, they should not start ripping their Bell jerseys up just yet.

The Steelers must effectively communicate with Bell’s team, something that, according to General Manager, Kevin Colbert, has not happened. In fact, in a statement shortly after Bakari’s interview on NFL Radio, Colbert stated:

“We are not going to discuss any conversations through the media. If Adisa [Bakari] would like to talk further, he has the phone number to our offices.”

The constant bickering between the Steelers and Bell’s team must stop. It has become childish. From Bell’s own offensive linemen calling him out to Bakari being on every sports radio show and podcast on God’s green earth, the saga is far too dramatic. There must be effective communication made between the two sides. Does it begin with head coach Mike Tomlin or perhaps Bell himself? Maybe it is the responsibility of the Rooney family, a football family dynasty if there ever was one. Who knows, but something needs to be done.

No matter who breaks the ice, one thing is certain: until a dialogue happens between both sides, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have to make do with what they have and find a way to put the Bell situation on the back burner.

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