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Breakfast with Benz

Tim Benz: 14 Le'Veon Bell takeaways for the $14 million he won't take from Steelers

| Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, 6:27 a.m.
Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell celebrates with head coach Mike Tomlin after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card game at Heinz Field on Jan. 8, 2017.
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Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell celebrates with head coach Mike Tomlin after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card game at Heinz Field on Jan. 8, 2017.

I’m at the saturation point with Le’Veon Bell. He won’t be playing Sunday for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cleveland, and it’s time to play an actual game.

So in honor of the $14 million franchise tag he has yet to sign, let’s refute, endorse, attack or advance the 14 biggest storylines of the Bell franchise tag saga.

1. The offensive linemen shouldn’t have popped off about Bell’s absence: That’s become a popular hot take among many national analysts, especially former players who are now in the media.

The theory is it’s business. And teammates shouldn’t comment about a fellow player’s business.

What they fail to grasp is that if Bell had made it clear he wouldn’t be reporting for the tag — which he could’ve figured out in April or at least mid-July — the team could’ve better shaped its roster with the extra money.

2. Bell is right to be concerned that Mike Tomlin will “run him till the wheels fall off”: He is. Tomlin will. Want to avoid that? Give him a reason not to. Sign that $70 million long-term deal.

3. The Steelers should rescind the tag: No. They shouldn’t. And they won’t. If you rescind the tag, you lose the compensatory draft pick, and Bell goes to New England. Or Baltimore. Or someone else that can hurt you.

4. The Steelers should’ve traded Bell: Remember, the Steelers wanted to sign him! They offered him more than any of us thought they would — or many of us thought they should. You don’t trade guys you are trying to sign for five years.

And for who? I know, I know. Khalil Mack.

Here’s the thing, Oakland similarly was trying to sign him and didn’t end up trading him until after the Steelers were stuck with the franchise tag.

5. The Steelers should trade Bell now: OK. A) Gotta get him to sign the tag first. B) Gotta find a team with salary cap space to handle the tag and yield appropriate compensation. C) What are you going to think if James Conner is injured right before Bell is scheduled to come back, yet he’s a New York Jet by then?

6. The Steelers should’ve let Bell walk at the end of last year: Then you wouldn’t have Le’Veon Bell. Like you don’t right now.

Until he shows up at some point this season. Maybe when you need him most. See above.

7. Where did the Steelers screw this up? The biggest mistake that may have occurred from a Steelers point of view is letting their version of their offer to Bell — $33 million guaranteed — become public. That may have been the jumping point for the Rams to construct Todd Gurley’s “exceptional” deal.

8. Bell is worried about failing another drug test: Spending the offseason with Wiz Khalifa and making it rain inside strip clubs may make people think that is the case. I haven’t been told that. But, I wouldn’t be shocked.

9. Bell will report with six weeks left and fake an injury just to get service time: Again, I haven’t been told that. But, I wouldn’t be shocked.

Nothing about Bell’s approach to football has indicated he’s that kind of guy. But Bell has also made it clear he’s not about football. He’s about business. And preserving his body is what’s best for business.

10. The Steelers should’ve seen this fiasco coming: Bell could’ve done the same thing last year, and he didn’t. Bell and his agent, Adisa Bakari, said Bell would play, starting Week 1, as recently as July 17. Now he isn’t.

“Reading between the lines” of what Bakari said on SiriusXM this week, it appears the mega contract signed by Gurley changed that approach.

However, conventional thinking had been that Bell would set the bar for Gurley. Not the other way around, since Gurley has less mileage. If Gurley’s contract was the “exceptional” thing that changed Bakari’s mind, the Steelers couldn’t control what the Rams did.

The club was trying to make him the highest paid back in the NFL, as he wanted.

11. Bell isn’t that good anymore anyway: No. He is. Bitter Steelers fans parsing his numbers to make him sound like a declining player come off sounding like the like a jilted 16-year-old dumped on prom night.

12. James Conner will make the Steelers forget Bell: No. He won’t. Conner is better than he was last year. There is reason to believe he’s become a good stop-gap while Bell is gone. I hope he’s even more than that. Can we please wait for some evidence besides a good preseason game in Green Bay before assuming that as fact?

13. This is on Mike Tomlin: No. It isn’t. Some say this is more “Team Tomlin Drama.” Of course, a lot of that of happens on his teams. But THIS isn’t THAT. Kevin Colbert offered $70 million of Rooney cash to Bell. They wanted to keep him, too. This isn’t all Tomlin’s call. Far from it.

14. The Steelers should’ve given Bell more guaranteed money if they wanted to sign him: That’s true. Although seeing how much of a headache this guy really is, I’m glad they didn’t. And I’m still not going to kill the front office for going the franchise route.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TimBenzPGH. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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