Going into the off-season always means a slew of questions for every NFL team. One of the questions facing the Pittsburgh Steelers is whether or not Le’Veon Bell will return. Last off-season, Pittsburgh offered Bell a huge contract. The contract included five years and would pay Bell an average of $12 million over that time. However, Bell rejected this offer, making the case that he is more than just a running back. He instead chose to play 2017 under the franchise tag. This off-season, a deal must be done to keep Bell long term.

Because Bell did not sign last year, he played under the franchise tag for roughly $12 million. For the 2018 season, Bell would make over $14.5 million under the franchise tag. This is not what Bell is looking for however. Bell wants a long-term deal while his value is still high. While he could make a large sum of money in 2018 under the franchise tag, he wants to have long-term security. Most people can understand where Bell is coming from. However, many are skeptical of why he turned down last years deal.

Making Sense Of It All

If Bell had accepted his deal, he would have easily been the highest paid running back in the league. Currently, that title belongs to Devonta Freeman of the Atlanta Falcons, who makes $8.5 million. Bell would have easily surpassed that at over $12 million a year. So why did he turn it down? Bell is looking for more than just financial stability. In his eyes, Bell is more than just the best running back in the league. Because of this, Bell has threatened to retire if Pittsburgh fails to reach a deal with him this off-season.

Numbers Never Lie

It is hard to argue with Bell, as many games this season he was the primary offensive weapon. Bell finished just 36 yards shy of the rushing title this year, despite sitting out the last game of the season. Bell was also the third leading receiver for Pittsburgh, racking up more yards than Martavis Bryant. This brings forth a very critical question in these negotiations. Does Bell deserve to be paid as a running back AND wide receiver? Based on the statistics, the answer should be yes. Does Pittsburgh see it this way? We will have to see.

Who Do You Turn To?

Another factor in this negotiation is Bell’s value opposed to his replacement. While James Conner showed promise in his rookie season, he is not at Bell’s level yet. Conner will certainly improve, but needs more time before becoming the main guy. Also, Conner was injured late in the season. While Bell has been injured in the past, he has proven that he is not injury prone. Pittsburgh does not yet have a long-term replacement for Bell. Because of this, they should pay Bell what he wants to keep him in Pittsburgh for a long time.

Moving Forward

So where do we go from here? Well, Bell has said recently that contract talks are going well. Pittsburgh should do everything in their power to lock him up to a multi-year extension. Yes, this will certainly eat up cap space. However, this is a team that does not need to go out and buy players. If the Steelers draft well, they could pick up the pieces they need to make a Super Bowl run in 2018. One thing is certain though. The offense would never look the same without Le’Veon Bell in it.

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