Sunday’s Jets game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium, one of their last two for the season, matches Le’Veon Bell––the Steelers former running back now with the Jets––against his former team.
Bell signed with the New York Jets in March of this year, a four year, $52.5 million, 35 mil guaranteed contract with incentives after divorcing himself from Pittsburgh, the team that drafted him in 2013.
The Steelers’ 48th pick in the second round, Bell, from Michigan State, proved to be a great pick becoming one of the elite players in his position. Bell was also Pittsburgh’s second best receiver. He benefits from his incredible ability to add yards to his catches, eluding defenders. Bell holds Pittsburgh’s franchise record for most receptions by a running back in a single season.
Bell’s rookie year expired at the end of the 2015-2016 season. He was “franchise tagged” for 2017, given a salary based on the average of the top salaries of other players at his position.
The Steelers attempted to “franchise tag” Bell again in 2018 after coming to an impasse in their attempt to sign him.
Bell choose to sit out the 2018 season, rejecting a $14.5 million payment instead of playing for Pittsburgh. The two couldn’t come to an agreement on what he wanted, a long term contract.
Sunday’s game will be the first time Bell faces his former team as a member of the Jets. While the Jets, 5-and-9, have no chance of a post season, the 8-and-6 Steelers currently hold the sixth playoff position, a Wild Card in the AFC Conference. It’s important for them to win.
Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh’s head coach, described Bell’s talent in a complimentary way, despite the fracture in their relationship.
“He’s got a complete game. He can run inside, he can run outside,” noted Tomlin whose plan is to minimize, limit Bell’s ability to impact the game knowing that he’ll be hyped to maneuver through the Steelers defense.
Bell, a three-time Pro Bowler with the Steelers, hasn’t had the initial overall impact that most expected with the Jets. He hasn’t been as productive, but that may not be his fault. Jets’ head coach Adam Gase even admits that.
“I love what he brings to the table,” Gase noted. “I really think that we haven’t maximized all his talents quite yet.”
Tomlin has. “We got a lot of respect for Le’Veon. We know the type of competitor he is.”