On Tuesday, Sports Illustrated published a good longform article that presents Le'Veon Bell's side of the close-but-no-cigar contract negotiations that ultimately led to him sitting out this past season for Pittsburgh after they tried to franchise tag him for the second straight year. Last week that saga officially concluded when Bell signed a four-year deal with the Jets.
The SI piece offers insight into just how close both Bell and the Steelers came to agreeing on a long-term extension, but it also published details on other factors that eventually led to the three-time Pro Bowler's exit.
A quote that has already made headlines came when Bell said that the team doesn't always treat you "like you're human." Bell had preceded that statement by calling Pittsburgh a "great organization" but immediately presented his case by saying that they expect a never-ending commitment to football while you're there.
“Pittsburgh is a great organization,” Bell said to interviewer/writer Jenny Vrentas. “They’ve got a great owner, head coach. They kind of treat you like—they don’t treat you like you’re human. What I mean by that is like, yeah, I’m an NFL athlete, but still I’m a human being. You know what I’m saying? I still play video games, I still make music. They don’t want to allow you to be yourself. They want you to be, if you’re a Steelers, you’re literally playing football 24/7. You’re not supposed to be playing video games and like making music, playing basketball. You’re not supposed to be doing that. You’re supposed to be working out.”
In addition to that, Bell stated that Ben Roethlisberger "was a factor" in him wanting out, though he said that the team's QB of 15+ years wasn't the only factor. (That would seem to second the frustration felt by at least one of the team's other stars.) Bell indicated that the chemistry between the two backfield mates wasn't quite where it should be, and that he wished the two had a relationship that was "more open, more genuine, more real."
Bell said that Roethlisberger was a "great quarterback" but also believed that the signal caller's personal preferences helped decide who gets an opportunity to make plays. "Quarterbacks are leaders; it is what it is," Bell said before adding, "You’re still a teammate at the end of the day. You’re not [team GM] Kevin Colbert. You’re not [team president Art] Rooney."
He also claimed that Roethlisberger can be difficult to deal with due to his tendency to want to "control everything."
“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," Bell said. "Ben won a Super Bowl, but he won when he was younger. Now he’s at this stage where he tries to control everything, and [the team] let him get there."
“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.”
Bell went on to give his reasoning on why he didn't show up to the team for Week 1 or his later target date (Week 7) despite his belief that last year's team would've won the Super Bowl had he suited up. Feel free to agree or disagree with what he's selling, but in order to do so you'll need to go check it out over at SI.