On June 16th, Le’Veon Bell once again disappointed Steeler Nation by not signing a long term contract. With this occurring for a second year in a row, the offseason period has become a time of great fear among the Steeler faithful. Thus, it is time to discuss exactly what the new contract means for the future.
Having decided to decline the contract offered by the Steelers, which was rumoured to be in the ballpark of $70 million dollars, Bell will remain on the Steeler roster for the 2018 season. Playing under the franchise tag designation, he will receive $14.55m.
Why did Bell turn the contract down?
The real answer is unknown. However, theories remain.
The primary reason surrounds the figure which was offered by the organisation. It is said that Bell was looking for a deal which would guarantee him $14.5m per year on a long term deal. An amount that the Steelers did not want to offer. The problem that many identify regarding the deal, is that Le’Veon needs to accept his role as the third most important player on the team. Despite being the best all-round running back in the NFL, Big Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown are the two most important players on the roster. Therefore, they receive the highest wage.
On the other hand, Bell appears to be content with his current contract, vowing to play the best he possibly can next year.
to all my Steeler fans, my desire always has been to retire a Steeler…both sides worked extremely hard today to make that happen, but the NFL is a hard business at times…to the fans that had hope, I’m sorry we let youu down but trust me, 2018 will be my best season to date…
— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) July 16, 2018
Stairway to Seven
The Steelers roster for 2018 remains stacked. With Roethlisberger returning as star quarterback, the six-time Pro Bowler will have another opportunity to play with a gifted team. More importantly, many believe that this will be Big Ben’s last ride at the helm.
Three-time Pro Bowler, Bell, will also be on the hunt for more success. Being a dual threat, Le’Veon posted great numbers last season. For example, he totalled 11 combined touchdowns and captured 1,291 rushing yards on the year. Furthermore, in terms of receiving yards, he achieved a total of 655 on 85 attempts. Further demonstrating exactly why he is the best running back in the league today.
Moreover, the number two ranked player in the NFL this year, as ranked by fellow players, returns and will play the biggest role on the team. In 2017, Brown led the league in receiving yards with 1,533. He also scored 9 touchdowns and made 101 receptions for the team. With his explosive speed and extravagant catches, Brown is an MVP contender.
The three B’s are the most formidable attacking trio in the league. However, it was a young rookie by the name of JuJu Smith-Schuster who caught the eyes of many last year. Selected 62nd overall in the Draft, he compiled 7 touchdowns and amassed 917 yards in his first season alone.
In addition, the defence has been reinforced this season, which really should have taken place in 2017 (better late than never though). Removing some of the ageing players from the defensive lineup, like Mike Mitchell, has increased cap space and will give younger defensive backs the time to truly shine. Namely Sean Davis and the 28th overall selection in the 2018 Draft, Terrell Edmunds.
As aforementioned, there have been a few minor tweaks to the defence. However, the elephant in the room last year seemed to be leadership. Particularly when star linebacker, Ryan Shazier, was sidelined with a potential career threatening injury. With the linebacker position open, it is the duty of his replacement, Jon Bostic, to take over the responsibilities.
Another negative from last seasons’ performances was the so-called “downplaying” of weaker opponents. It is often said that, the Steelers prepare very well for the big opponents, however, fall short to the lesser teams in the league. You don’t have to look far to find evidence of this. Considering, in week 3 of the 2017/18 season, the Steelers were defeated 23-17 by the Chicago Bears.
To conclude, the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers are at an almost perfect stage in team progression.
This season could truly be the year within which “Stairway To Seven” is finally achieved. On the other hand, it really is a make or break year for the team. With contracts coming to an end and the high potential of Bell’s departure next season, Super Bowl hopes will disappear quickly if this season is not a success.