‘I didn’t want to leave Pittsburgh’: Le’Veon Bell explains contract dispute, why he left Steelers for Jets

It was quite a contract saga for the Pittsburgh Steelers and running back Le’Veon Bell before the 2018 season, which ultimately resulted in Bell surprisingly missing out all season, losing millions on the football tag. frankness and accelerating his departure from the only place. it called home for four seasons.

Now, years later, Bell has opened up about those contract negotiations and finally left Pittsburgh, saying on the “Steel Here” podcast with Barstool’s Jersey Jerry and Kevin Adams that he never wanted to leave Pittsburgh.

“No, I didn’t want to leave Pittsburgh. No, because at the end of the day, that’s where I was at,” he said. “It was like, that’s where I got drafted…especially after really going to different teams and seeing what it’s like, when the team has their guy, like you’re their guy. I was the Pittsburgh guy.

After playing on the franchise tag in 2017, Bell opted out of doing so again in 2018. Although the Steelers were reportedly offered a big deal, an even Bell agent suggested he take it, Bell s has been absent all season. Pittsburgh no longer franchised him and he signed with the New York Jets.

Hanging up in negotiations with the Steelers was guaranteed money, at least from Bell’s perspective, especially after playing on the franchise tag in 2017. But even the yearly average was a problem for Bell, which hoped about $16 million per season. but said he was not offered more than $13.3 million before the 2018 season, which was again right around the franchise’s tag number.

“Yeah, it was a petty little thing, like the little warranty thing.” he said. “The first time I think, ‘Could I have really just eaten it?’ Yeah. I probably could have really eaten it. But it’s like, I think at that point, I was stared at when I was so stern and like, ‘Dang bro, I played through this wound, I did this.’ Everyone inside really knew what was going on. I played through that injury. You guys finished getting me a franchise tag shot. You already said you were gonna do this. And then the next year , when it’s time… the year I sat down, I had already said no to {$13.3 million]the year before.

“And then I played on the [franchise] tag to [$12.1]. So now the label is about to be $14.5 million, I think, or 14, and then they sent out a long-term deal, again $13.3 million. I’m like, ‘Bro, you really don’t want me here because you all sent the same contract, I just declined. I just played on the franchise tag because y’all sent me his contact who I said no to last year. I already literally told him no. So why are you all going to send me and I played the tag for all of you and then you all sent me the same thing?

After turning down a contract offer ahead of the 2017 season and playing on the franchise tag, Bell believed he would eventually strike a deal with the Steelers. But then, by his take on things, the franchise played hardball, withholding his weed suspension after his 2014 arrest over his head in negotiations.

Eventually, Bell did what he says he never wanted to do, which was to leave Pittsburgh, sign a four-year, $52 million contract with the Jets in free agency ahead of the 2019 season, earning $27 million from guarantees during the first two years of the contract.

It marked the beginning of the end of his career. Bell averaged just 3.2 yards per carry in the Jets’ struggling offense with rumors the organization didn’t even want him anymore. Bell was signed under Mike Maccagnan, who would surprisingly be fired later this offseason. Bell wouldn’t even spend two full seasons with the team and bounced off the rest of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

During his time with the Jets, Bell soon learned that the grass wasn’t any greener and it was going to be a real battle in New York because of the head coach, who was Adam Gase at the time.

“I’m angry now. I’m mad [after signing with the Jets]”, Bell said. “And at the same time, I’m always like, ‘I know I can do whatever I want on the court.’ I’m confident. That’s how I feel how good I am at football. We arrive in New York and that’s when I instantly find out, oh, head coaches make a huge difference. Huge difference. As soon as I arrive in New York, I discover it. Like the first week, the first week, it’s like, bro, I knew it was going to be a battle. I knew it was going to be a battle. I knew it. But at the same time, I have confidence in myself, like ‘Oh, I know that I feel good in football.’ So it’s like, fuck, he can call bad plays or whatever, but it’s like, I’m still pretty good. I’m gonna miss this guy, bro. I’ll do this, do that. No, it’s… I promise you it’s too hard to do.

It was clear from the start that Bell and then-Jets head coach Adam Gase were never on the same page, and that didn’t help matters when reports surfaced. surface that Gase was opposed to signing Bell. Thereafter, Bell was always dissatisfied with his use in the attack of the Jets.

Ultimately, it was a mistake to leave Pittsburgh, and it was likely a mistake to haggle over Bell guarantees, especially with a franchise that historically pays lucrative contracts it signs players to. It’s a cautionary tale, and one that remains one of the biggest “what ifs?” in franchise history.

Who knows how different things are in 2018, 2019 and 2020 for the Steelers with Bell in the fold, instead of him playing in New York.

Watch the full 90 Minute interview with Bell below.

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