Should the Pittsburgh Steelers Trade Le'Veon Bell?
Earlier this summer many expected a hold out from Le’Veon Bell as he and the Pittsburgh Steelers were unable to reach a long term deal that Bell thought was suitable for him. However, nobody expected this holdout to last as long as it has as most including Bell’s teammates believed he would be there for the start of the regular season as that’s what they were led to believe be Bell. We’re now heading into week 6 of the NFL season and Bell is still not with the organization, but there are reports that he will be showing up during the team’s bye week in week 7 in order to accrue the amount of games for this year to count so that he can become a free agent. The questions many are asking is, “Should the Steelers trade Le’Veon Bell?” There are several reasons they should including the emergence of James Conner, Bell’s health and that most believe the two sides will depart after this season. Let’s take a look at each one of this reasons more in-depth.
The first reason has been the emergence of James Conner. Conner is a 2nd year back he had a rough rookie season, but that had a lot to do with remission from his cancer that he is now cured from. He is averaging 4.07 yards per carry which is below the 4.22 average yards per rush in the NFL, but that is above Bell’s average of 4.0 from last season. Conner is also a good pass catching running back as he has 22 receptions for 239 yards and is averaging 10.86 per catch which is higher than Bell’s average of 7.7 last season. That isn’t saying that Conner is a better running back than Bell as Bell is arguably one of the best running backs in the NFL, but he is definitely a back in decline which brings us to the next reason of Bell’s health.
Bell’s health, by this I am referring to his workload over the past few seasons as he has been averaging well over 300 touches per season since 2014 with the exception of 2015 including last year’s 426 touches during the season. His work load has taken a load on his body and the average lifespan for a running back in the NFL is 3.3 years which Bell is over that and he is already well over 1,000 touches in his career (1,541) which is usually when backs begin to decline as evident by his yards per carry last season which was at 4.0 his lowest since his rookie years and well under the 4.83 he had averaged the previous three season. He also saw a decline in his yards per catch dropping from 8.2 to 7.7. In terms of workload he has used a lot of mileage and they Steelers are likely to part with him after the season anyway because he is in the decline which brings us to the next reason the departure after the season.
Both Bell and the Steelers have already hinted at separating after the season as Bell wants to have a long term contract somewhere and the Steelers are not willing to give him the amount Bell believes he deserves. The Steelers would like to get something in return for Bell before he becomes a free agent and there should be trading partners they could find suitable including the 49ers, Packers and Colts, but I don’t foresee them trading Bell for pennies on the dollar. If they are able to find what they believe to be a good deal then they will trade him.
So, to answer the question should the Steelers trade Bell? Yes, they should as James Conner has emerged into a good back for them and has out produced Bell’s averages from last season and is a cheaper back long term. Bell is also in decline because of the amount of workload he’s been given by the Steelers and would likely see just as much workload as last season. The final reason is the two sides will not be able to come to a long-term deal in the off season and they are better off getting something than allowing Bell to walk away without getting anything in return. Bell still has what it takes to be a workhorse back for a contender this season and a team like the Packers would be a great fit.