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Steelers

Mark Madden: Time for Steelers to leave Le'Veon Bell behind

| Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, 7:34 p.m.
Steelers running back LeVeon Bell turns the corner on the Ravens' Brandon Carr for a fourth-quarter touchdown Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers running back LeVeon Bell turns the corner on the Ravens' Brandon Carr for a fourth-quarter touchdown Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 at Heinz Field.

Le'Veon Bell gives the Steelers carries.

Bell gives the Steelers catches.

Bell gives the Steelers first downs.

Bell gives the Steelers touchdowns.

But Bell will never give the Steelers his full commitment. Not as long as the Steelers don't acquiesce to his onerous contract demands.

So, after a season where lack of full commitment fouled the Steelers locker room and added up to going 0-1 in the only meaningful portion of the schedule, it's time for the Steelers and Bell to part ways.

Bell is the NFL's best running back. But he's replaceable.

The NFL is a passing league. But it's short on good quarterbacks and flush with competent running backs.

Consider 2015, when Bell only played in six games due to injury and suspension.

DeAngelo Williams started 10 games in Bell's absence. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry and 9.2 yards per catch. Both figures topped Bell's averages this season. Williams accounted for 1,274 total yards and 11 touchdowns.

You'd still rather have Bell. But Williams' output was perfectly acceptable and then some.

Williams made $2.1 million that season. That's 15 percent of what Bell will make if the Steelers franchise him again.

There's another Williams out there. Perhaps 10 or 12 backs of that caliber can be had. Each will work cheap.

There's no disputing Bell's talent, performance or production. (But there are flaws: His tap-dancing style is suspect in short-yardage situations, he averaged a mediocre 4.0 yards per carry this season and only had three totes of more than 20 yards.) There's also no disputing that Bell is a jerk. He's about himself and no one else. He's not real bright, either, as evidenced by the silly notion that he should be paid the combined salaries of a No. 1 back and a No. 2 receiver.

Huh? You're one guy. The Steelers are still using 11 men.

Bell's latest transgressions:

• Threatening to sit out next season or retire if he's franchised again and doing so just 72 hours before the Steelers' playoff game against Jacksonville.

• Missing all but five minutes of the walk-through the day before that game.

• Showing up later than the prescribed two hours before kickoff for that game.

That's a lot of shenanigans in a four-day span, especially from somebody who wants his employer to pay him $15M annually over 4-5 years.

But Bell has always been stupid, selfish and immature. He got suspended twice for pot. A third ban seems inevitable.

If the Steelers franchise Bell again, he's going to no-show camp like he did this past season. He might follow through on his threat to skip the campaign or quit. Probably not. Bell missing paychecks is unlikely. But do the Steelers want to deal with the uncertainty?

They shouldn't. It's too much nonsense from the same person.

The Steelers' culture of chaos made a 13-3 season thoroughly tedious and the premature ending sadly predictable. Ditching one of that culture's most frequent offenders would deliver a significant message.

Bell's cap space could be used to sign a replacement and to help fix a rotten defense that ultimately negated all the Steelers' offensive weaponry.

Be prepared for the Steelers to ditch Bell. The organization almost certainly leaked the news of Bell showing up late for Saturday's walk-through and being tardy Sunday to pave the way for Bell's exit. Bell is very likely gone.

The Steelers will benefit by not having Bell. It's not fantasy football. It's about building a team.

Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on 105.9 FM.

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