As the standoff between the Pittsburgh Steelers and holdout running back Le’Veon Bell continues, one of his former teammates offered some unusual advice.
Retired defensive star James Harrison, who spent the bulk of his 15-year career in Pittsburgh, said Bell should report to the Steelers and then fake injuries to avoid having to play on Sundays.
“If I’m Le’Veon ... I’m coming back, what is it, Nov. 13?” said Harrison in an interview with FS1, referencing the cutoff date for Bell to return and still receive credit for a full service year, which would allow him to be a free agent next season.
“I’m going to go in there, I’m gonna get my credit this season that I need to get and I’m going to do the best I can to get out of this season healthy,” Harrison continued.
“For me, I’d give you everything at practice. You’d see — the cameras would see — that I’m fine, I’m healthy. But come Saturday, ‘Something ain’t right. I can’t play on Sunday.’ Because if I go out here and I mess something up, I’m losing a lot of money.”
ESPN reported Sunday that the Steelers are listening to offers for Bell, who has yet to report to the team or sign his franchise tender after getting tagged for the second consecutive offseason. Bell ended his 2017 holdout before the regular season, but it remains unclear if or when he’ll join the Steelers this season.
Any trade of Bell would have to come before the Oct. 30 deadline, and the acquiring team would have to take on significant salary. Bell is currently owed just under $12 million for the rest of 2018, after forfeiting $2.6 million ($853K per game) for missing the Steelers’ first three games.
An acquiring team also would not be assured of keeping Bell long-term. Bell is not allowed to sign a contract extension with any team until after the season, and at that point, he could simply choose to hit free agency. It’s unlikely any team would use the franchise tag on Bell, as it would cost around $18 million if used a third straight time on him.
In his five seasons in Pittsburgh, Bell has had at least 1,200 yards rushing and 600 receiving yards three times. He is a two-time first-team All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler.
But his contract squabbles with the club have become an annual offseason ritual. After not signing under the franchise tag until Sept. 4 last season, Bell averaged fewer than 3.5 yards per carry through the first three weeks. But he finished 2017 with a league-high 321 carries for 1,291 yards along with 85 catches for 655 yards and 11 total touchdowns.
—Field Level Media