(Image credit Vincent Carchietta/USA Today Sports)
Written by: Nicholas Mullick
If you were to ask me years ago who was one of the best and top running backs during the 2010 decade of the NFL I would have placed Le’Veon Bell on that list no question. The man was full of talent both in the running and receiving game which was a huge part of his success. Years later Le’Veon Bell would not be the same player he was in his earlier years and has completely fallen off the grid as he has been on three teams in two years. The most recent news came out from his release from the Baltimore Ravens. So I thought why not dive into the career of RB Le’Veon Bell and see his rise in the NFL and the fall of his career in the sport.
Le’Veon Bell was recruited by Michigan State University and he was ranked as a 2-star recruit. Bell proved that he was more than a two-star recruit by having a solid rookie season having 605 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns. Then his sophomore season kicked in and he had 948 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns which was an improvement. Bell's final season was an important one and he delivered a 1,793 rushing yards season with 12 rushing touchdowns. That season performance made Le’Veon decide after a strong junior year in college that he would forgo his final year in college and declare for the 2013 NFL Draft
2013 NFL Draft
Le’Veon Bell was selected in the 2013 Round in the second round 48th Overall. Looking back it was a no-brainer pick for the Steelers to take Le’Veon Bell at that spot. The Steelers needed a running back as Rashad Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer were leaving to go to the cliche spot for former Steelers to sign to; The Arizona Cardinals. The Steelers had no choice but to draft a prospect running back in the NFL or force an injury-prone LaRod Stephens-Howling, Veteran yet unproven Isaac Redman, or stick with RB Felix Jones who was terrible. They needed a running back for this offense and boy was this pick a slam dunk.
Pittsburgh Steelers Tenure
This Pick would absolutely pan out for the Steelers as in his rookie season Le'Veon Bell had a strong season as in 13 games Le’Veon Bell rushed for 860 yards and 8 rushing Touchdowns. He was extremely solid in his first season and if he was healthy he would have absolutely reached 1,000 yards rushing. Luckily next season he did reach that goal in fact he got 1,361 rushing yards and 8 rushing touchdowns. To add to it Bell got 854 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. Bell was a big part of the three-headed monster offense with the three B’s Ben, Brown, and Bell. The 2015 season was an important season for Bell and the Steelers as they were favorites to make the Superbowl. Unfortunately, Bell suffered a season-ending injury which was a massive loss to this team. In 2016 and 2017 he had around 1,200 rushing yards and 600 receiving yards. He had a strong career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and many thought that he would be a Steeler for the rest of his career especially as he was a big part of this offense. Until round two of the holdout came.
Early Signs of Trouble Regarding Le’Veon Bell
I decided to section this off before we get to the holdout because Bell did have some off-the-field issues before the Holdout began. His first incident happened with teammate LeGarrette Blount in August 2014 where they were charged with DUI and marijuana possession. Bell would be suspended for 4 games originally then had the games dropped to two games due to an appeal.
Many would think Bell had learned his lesson right. Well Wrong
In 2016 Bell Would be suspended for three games for violating the league's substance of abuse policy and it was mainly due to the fact that Bell missed a random drug test that he had to do in December. This turned out to not be true as he actually missed three random drug tests in 9 months. How in the world would you miss three drug tests in 9 months? I get if it happens once mistakes happen but if you do it three straight times that is a big issue. It is also very suspicious for a player to do and it makes you look guilty when you have a reputation of possessing marijuana.
Now before I go on here I want to mention that this was not the first time Bell had a holdout with the Steelers as he held out for a majority of the 2017 offseason. When Bell got Franchised tagged again he decided to hold out for even regular-season games until he got the contract that he wanted to play. Both sides had strong points as Le’Veon wanted more guaranteed money for his services as he was one of the top running backs in the league and start a revolution when it comes to negotiating running back contracts. Where on the other hand the Steelers believed it was too risky to sign him to a gigantic contract. The Holdout got long and long and if Bell did not even sign his franchise tag with the team and had until November 13th to sign it or he would lose 14.5 million dollars and not be eligible to play for the 2018 Season. I think the wait hurt Le’Veon because James Connor stepped up and was a solid player that replaced Bell during his hold-out. So November 13th came and we know the story Bell decided not to sign thus forfeiting the 2018 season and 14.5 million dollars. This to me when it was announced was shocking to me. I was shocked he did not sign the tag and follow former LB James Harrison’s advice and fake an injury thus getting 14.5 million and still technically holding out of his deal by not playing. What angered me is the Steelers locker room reaction to it as they raided Bell’s locker room including Bud Dupree who took pairs of Bell’s shoes during the raid. Former Steelers CB Mike Hilton said that raiding Le'Veon locker was therapeutic in a way. Which is not therapeutic to do that and is unethical doing that. You can't just raid into a person’s personal belongings and call it therapeutic. That is the definition of a poor culture and after that, there was no coming back. Le’Veon Bell would not be tagged again and onwards to the journey to get that contract. The team he signed with is….
New York Jets Tenure
… The New York Jets. Bell signed a 4-yeardollars contract worth 52.5 Million dollar contract where 35 million dollars of it are guaranteed. Now when I heard the news I was excited that Le’Veon Bell would be signing with the Jets thinking they were on the right track. Then I realized that Bell would be rusty early in the season, had a weaker o-line than he did with the Steelers, and the Jets new head coach was announced as Adam Gase. Oh boy, one of the worst coaches in New York Jets history. I legitimately debated who was the worst head coach in Jets history either Richie Kotite or Adam Gase and boy was it close but I could not decide. Once the move signing Bell happened it was clear that the “Offensive Genius'’ did not like him at all and refused to utilize him. Say what you want about Tomlin but he is a massively inferior head coach than Adam Gase will ever be. During his tenure with the team, Bell has struggled due to poor coaching and injuries. I want to also add that Bell's success with the Steelers was based on how patient he was running behind that o-line. Bell didn't have that with the New York Jets thus resulting in his struggles in his first season. Then the 2020 season and it was a year of rebounding that Bell needed for the New York Jets and what does the Offensive genius do with Bell. Well on October 13th the New York Jets released him. I mean why in the middle of the season Gase would do this is mind-boggling. Now that Bell is free from the terrible coaching of Gase he could go to a team where he would be better coached.
Kansas City Chiefs Tenure
Le’Veon Bell decided to ring chase and sign with the Kansas City Chiefs. It makes sense as the Chiefs needed veteran experience in the backfield as Damien Williams opted out due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Bell has a better environment with a good coach and he did not perform well during his time with the Chiefs. He rushed for 254 yards and scored 2 touchdowns in 9 games. The Chiefs did go to the Super Bowl and lost to the Buccaneers but Bell was not even used once in that game. This angered Bell and he stated that “I’ll never play for Andy Reid again... I’d retire first”. Which is a wrong thing for him to do and it gave many players to speak up about Bell and support Andy Reid. That quote almost single-handedly destroy any chance he would sign with another football team until he got an opportunity for another chance in the NFL.
Baltimore Ravens Tenure
Luckily for Bell, an opportunity arrived when the Baltimore Ravens lost JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards for the season due to season-ending injuries. The Ravens needed to act fast and sign players so the Ravens decided to sign Le’Veon Bell. The problem is they also signed Devonta Freeman and in the past few games, they have utilized Freeman a lot more than they have with Bell and statistically Freeman is better. Now we get to today where the Ravens have decided to cut ties with Le’Veon Bell after not even 5 games with the team.
It is a stunning and intriguing rise and fall with running back Le’Veon Bell. He went from being one of the best running backs in the NFL. He was on one of the rising teams in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers offense with a three-headed monster offense with Big Ben and Antonio Brown. Trying to start a running back revolution and change the way the league goes through contracts. To out of a job with a history of disrespecting many coaching staff thus ruining his reputation.
With Le’Veon Bell, It has brought me a ton of What if questions. What if Le’Veon Bell did not hold out during the 2018 season? What if Bell Signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers? What if Le’Veon Bell did start a revolution in the way the league negotiates contracts with running backs? What if the Jets hired Mike McCarthey over Adam Gase? What if Le’Veon Bell never spoke out against the most respected head coaches in the league with Andy Reid? What if Le’Veon Bell was not a cancer in the locker room?
Those questions will never be answered and it is quite a fall from grace for Le’Veon Bell and I have no clue what the future holds for him or if he will ever return to playing football. But I wish Le’Veon Bell well as he made a lot of amazing plays during his time as a Pittsburgh Steeler.