One of the longest and poorly executed holdouts in recent memory may finally be nearing its end come Tuesday, November 13th. Star running back Le’Veon Bell must report to the Pittsburgh Steelers by Tuesday to sign his franchise tender. If he forgoes to sign it, then Bell will have to forfeit what’s left of his 2018 salary. This is arguably one of the worst holdouts in NFL history. Bell was holding out hope that the Steelers would give in to his demands for a hefty long-term contract.
However, he didn’t bank on second-year running back James Conner to fill his shoes so extensively. Conner has pretty much ended any hope of Bell attaining the Brinks truck with a new contract. The Pittsburgh Steelers offense has hardly skipped a beat with Conner in the backfield. So if Le’Veon Bell does return and sign his franchise tender on Sunday, how would he fit with the offense? Should the Steelers even allow Bell much playing time?
Le’Veon Bell would easily fit with the offense and certainly deserves plenty of snaps. The narratives being placed on Bell’s fit and return as if he got traded to the Steelers. Did people forget he’s very well tuned with the system? The only thing that should come into question with Bell is his conditioning and nothing else. The Pittsburgh Steelers would be daft not to use Bell because he isn’t just an elite running back, he’s an elite football player.
It’s the insane versatility of Bell that makes him one of the best in the league. He’s not just your typical pass catch out of the backfield running back. He can line up at receiver and be a threat. Bell was targeted 107 times last season through the air and reeled in 85 of them for 655 yards. I’m sure offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner is pounding the tables in the meeting room to get him on the field. It’s not just to get the ball in Bell’s hands, but to use him in various formations. That’s where his importance will be felt the most in this offense; it’s the pre-snap looks. Imagine having to try to key in on Conner, Bell, Antonio Brown, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. That’s a personnel group that will lead to so many breakdowns in coverage.
Defenses will hate having to go up against that group because of the demand to have a perfect game. Every one of these players provides different challenges and looks that demand attention. If any are left, unchecked they can break off an easy touchdown score like what JuJu Smith-Schuster did on their very first play against the Carolina Panthers last night. Anyone of those four players can be shifted or put in motion pre-snap to confuses defenses.
Le’Veon Bell could be lined up at receiver, which he’s a viable threat at, then motioned to the backfield with James Conner. The ball doesn’t even have to go to any of those two; it’s just to get the defense to think, rather than to use their instincts. When players start to think, that’s when they become vulnerable. It makes them freeze and have lapses. Because of those lapses, this offense would score in fewer plays on drives.
With the plethora of threats at their disposal, it wouldn’t shock anyone if their scoring plays of 20+ yards rose exponentially. There are just endless possibilities of how to use Le’Veon Bell. Now that James Conner is a proven running back this season adding Bell makes it almost impossible to cover everyone. No defensive coordinator in their right mind would have his entire defense straight up match up with these guys. One of these four players will get open. At that point, defenses are going to have to force Ben Roethlisberger to make a mistake. However, that too will be difficult because defenses won’t be able to allocate players for blitzes.
It would mean that one, maybe two of the four playmakers are open. It’s a tough task to scheme up against the Pittsburgh Steelers offense if Le’Veon Bell returns. They would be the most talented offense in the league. It’s essentially unfair at that point. Maybe the NFL should have forced the Steelers to trade Bell to make the playing field a little more balanced. If Bell returns, I wouldn’t expect too much of an immediate impact in his first game. It would be later down the line like in the next two to three games. This all, however, is a moot point until Tuesday. Will Le’Veon sign his franchise tender? Or will he pass to officially holdout of 2018 entirely? Keep an eye out on any news of the star running backs return to the Pittsburgh Steelers.