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Tim Benz: Breaking down Le’Veon Bell’s knocks on Steelers

Tim Benz
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In a Sports Illustrated interview, Le’Veon Bell said Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger “wants to win his way, and that’s tough to play with.”

If Antonio Brown’s softball-filled interview on ESPN wasn’t rage-inducing enough for Steelers fans, Le’Veon Bell appears to have gotten just as big of a creampuff platform from Sports Illustrated.

Much like the ESPN piece about how Brown forced his departure from the Steelers, Bell’s S.I. interview about how he “bet on himself” in free agency read like an unchallenged press release written by Adisa Bakari himself.

It was packed with one-sided presentation from Bell’s perspective and spin from his point of view.

As was the case in the ESPN piece, either the Steelers, Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger were never reached for comment or they didn’t provide one.

A lot of what Bell said in the story is continuing Brown’s backward explanation that the Steelers are somehow to blame for the toxic environment that the two former players’ contract and roster disputes created.

That’s like smoking two packs a day and then blaming your own lungs for getting emphysema.

So, because so many of Bell’s arguments went either unchallenged by author Jenny Vrentas — or those counters were edited out — let’s do it ourselves here.

•••

We’ll start with this video clip that made the rounds on Wednesday.

Yes, Le’Veon. The team is going to be unhappy with your social media activity if you are predicting rematches with the Patriots before you lose to the Jaguars. And they are going to be unhappy when you are playing video games — or doing whatever you were doing — instead of going to the walkthrough.

•••

There was this clip released Tuesday, too.

No, Le’Veon, I don’t know “what you are saying.” How about you talk in specifics? Who “said things” that made you stay away? What made you feel “uncomfortable” about showing up at the last minute? Do you regret saying you’d show up and regret tying up your salary and then changing your mind and leaving your teammates high and dry?

Some of that exchange may have been necessary to complete a more balanced picture.

•••

In the story, Bell suggests Ben Roethlisberger froze out Antonio Brown at times.

So if I’m mad at a player and I’m not throwing him the ball — if I’m not throwing A.B. the ball and I’m giving JuJu (Smith-Schuster) all the shine or Jesse (James) or Vance (McDonald) or whoever it is, and you know consciously you’re making your other receiver mad but you don’t care — it’s hard to win that way.

For the record, Brown led the AFC in targets last year and was second in the NFL in 2017. If anything, Roethlisberger was guilty of forcing the ball to Brown in coverage too much.

•••

Bell had this quote regarding what he deems to be unfair contractual treatment of running backs.

… 10, 12 years from now there’s going to have to be another Le’Veon Bell who’s gonna take a stand.

He means “another Todd Gurley,” right?

As Bell says in the story, he may have “put the ($15 million-per-year) number out there.” But Gurley got it.

By the way, I thought average annual value didn’t matter. I thought it was only the guaranteed cash at signing that counted. Funny how Bell keeps moving the goalposts here.

•••

Vrentas also wrote, “Plus, the decision, he says, wasn’t just about money.”

Yes, it was. Or at least that’s what Bell and Bakari have been saying for the last two years. Guaranteed money due at signing. But instead, the article does what most national media outlets have done when discussing Brown and Bell in recent months: shift blame to Roethlisberger.

“The organization wants to win. Tomlin wants to win. Ben wants to win — but Ben wants to win his way, and that’s tough to play with. Ben won a Super Bowl, but he won when he was younger. Now he’s at this stage where he tries to control everything.”

I never heard Bell complain about Roethlisberger during his absence until Brown made it a chic thing to do.

Not once. That’s a quote of convenience.

•••

*I loved this one.

I felt like: For me to get my full potential and be the player I know I can be, I gotta go play with different players. I gotta go play with people who want to see me succeed, who want me to be great.”

So you went to the Jets?!

Retract that. Forget that cheap shot at New York. More importantly, if the Steelers offered him $70 million over five years, did he really think that they didn’t “want to see (him) succeed?”

•••

*And here’s how the piece ends:

But if the last 420-odd days have confirmed anything about Le’Veon Bell, it’s that he’s going to do things his own way.”

Why are we praising him for “doing things his way?” Doing things his way cost him money, a season of football in his prime, and — as he claims — a Super Bowl. It appears doing things “his way” wasn’t a good idea.

Although any article that ends with a 420 reference for Bell makes it all worthwhile.

I don’t know if Vrentas did that on purpose, but if so, it was well played.

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

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