By: Brady Gardner
We are more than halfway through the 2018 NFL regular season, and Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has yet to return to his team.
The Bell saga has been one of the most interesting storylines of the fall, sparking “will he, won’t he” debates across the nation. While he has returned to Pittsburgh from his offseason home in Miami, there has been little indication of him rejoining the team any time soon, despite being an elite talent in the prime of his career.
With every day that Bell refuses to rejoin the Steelers, it becomes more and more plausible that he has played his final game in the black and yellow. So, if he won’t be taking the field with the Steelers, who will he be with instead?
I’m not an NFL insider. I don’t have any revealing rumors about Le’Veon Bell’s future. But I am a football fan, and I know which teams would make a great fit for this elite running back. While some of these destinations may be illogical for financial or historical reasons, speculating about where Bell will land is one of the most entertaining topics in all of the NFL right now, and I wouldn’t be a football fan if I didn’t voice my own ideas about where he could end up.
Call me a Patriots homer, but I think the Pats would be a great team for Bell to play for. This is a roster that has been decimated by injuries at the running back position, and could desperately use a proven runner in the backfield to take some of the pressure off quarterback Tom Brady. Bell would get less defensive attention due to the danger posed by the passing game, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could balance the attack with a more effective running game. A win-win for everyone.
As much as it hurts me to say this, it would be a major shock to see the Patriots bring in Bell. He carries too much baggage and too lofty of financial demands, and the Patriots’ have found ways to establish the run in other ways. They’ve never had a truly elite running back in the Tom Brady era, so bringing in Bell would be uncharacteristic and frankly unnecessary.
The Vikings are in a similar spot to the Patriots, where injuries have forced Minnesota to promote backs further down the depth chart. In a highly-contested NFC, it is unlikely that a team without a run game could surpass the Rams or the Saints, who both feature outstanding talents in the passing game and on the rush. Acquiring Bell could add another star to an explosive Minnesota attack, and bring the Vikings right back into the conversation for potential NFC champs.
Do I see Bell going to the Vikings? Probably not. This star-studded offense has enough of a payroll already, with the likes of Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, and Stefon Diggs. I’ve written before about how rosters are trending in a very offense-heavy way, but there’s only so much money a team can spend on attacking options. Bringing in Bell would give Minnesota one of the most exciting offenses in the game, but I just don’t see how it would be possible.
The Patriots and Vikings are flashy names to consider in the Le’Veon Bell sweepstakes, but how about a team that isn’t in the Super Bowl conversation already? I think one of the teams that needs Bell the most is the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers desperately needs some help in reviving a 3-4-1 Green Bay team, and signing Bell would be a huge step in the right direction.
Having traded away leading rusher Ty Montgomery, the Packers’ run game could use a major boost. Mike McCarthy is likely out the door at the end of the season, so whoever comes in could be inheriting an offensive mess involving one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, and not much else. If the Packers want to really take advantage of the final half-decade or so of the Rodgers window, they need to make a splash, and adding Bell could be just that.
No one knows how likely any of these moves are, and when, or even if Bell will leave Pittsburgh. Ultimately, all this analysis and speculation could be for nothing. But fans will be fans, and when a move for an elite talent like Bell seems imminent, it’s impossible to stay away.
Le’Veon Bell’s days in Pittsburgh might be over, but his career certainly isn’t.
Who will win the race for the running back? We’ll have to wait to find out.