There used to be a time, not too long ago, when Le’Veon Bell seemed to be everything the Pittsburgh Steelers were hoping for in a running back. Now? Entering his fourth NFL season with a suspension for missing a drug test hanging over his head, they’re not that confident about his future anymore.
Bell will be suspended for three games, and not four, for missing a drug test. That, a DUI arrest along with the marijuana possession make the Steelers a bit more wary about their long term future with Bell. There was also his MCL/PCL injury last season which kept him out for more than half the season, and suddenly a sure thing and easily, quickly becoming one of the best running backs in the NFL isn’t enough to make the Steelers guarantee his future beyond this season.
Bell isn’t a problematic character. His work ethic is impressive, he is fantastic when it comes to fan interactions and off the field charity activities and things of the sort. But if at the end of the 2014 season, when Bell made the All-Pro and Pro Bowl in his second season in the NFL, the Steelers saw themselves carrying on with the former Michigan State running back for a long, long time, it’s not going to be that surprising if he ends up playing somewhere else after 2014.
When healthy, Bell is terrific. He ran for 553 yards in 6 games last season. The previous season he had 2215 yards from scrimmage, rushing for 1361 yards and scoring 8 touchdowns, while also receiving 854 yards on 83 receptions. The Steelers didn’t need much beyond him and Antonio Brown to get the offense going. Obviously it’s not that healthy when so much depends on two players, but the Steelers won’t be complaining if Bell returns like before his injury, and presents a difficult-to-handle dual threat out of the backfield.
Bell is only 24, a second round pick that has turned into an essential part of an offense, on a team trying to make the most of the final years of efficiency from Ben Roethlisberger, who always seems to be one more big hit from not being able to be a starting quarterback anymore. Putting great weapons around him has been the focus in the last three or four years, and the Steelers hope their efforts won’t go crashing down because of things that have nothing to do with football.