Managing the Le’Veon Bell Suspension

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With the news of Le’Veon Bell and his suspension over a violation of the drug policy comes a multitude of questions. He is a free agent next year, but what does that mean? When do I take him in my fantasy draft? How do two of the Steelers top starters at skill positions get suspended for the same thing in back to back off-seasons? It is all so in-depth. But first thing is first, the Steelers will manage without Bell.

Managing the Le’Veon Bell Suspension

In the first four games, the Steelers will be calling on DeAngelo Williams to do similar to what was expected of Bell. Bell was suspended for two games in 2015, and then injured for the last eight regular season games. In that time Williams averaged 85 yards per game and put up 11 touchdowns while running at a 5.0 yard per carry clip.
Williams is an experienced back, and he is running behind the best offensive line he has had in his career.

Former Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak was brought in as the offensive line coach in 2014. He turned them from one of the worst groups into one of the surefire best. The offensive line gets Maurkice Pouncey back, which may not only cancel out four games without Bell, but improve the offense from where it has been.


Whether Bell was suspended or not, the biggest factor in determining whether the Steelers are Super Bowl contenders was and is still is the defense. The defense is young. They went from 30th to 11th in team DVOA last year. That kept them in the playoff hunt despite Bell’s and Bryant’s suspensions, and a Ben Roethlisberger injury last season. With Stephon Tuitt in his second full season as a starter and Bud Dupree only in year two of the league, the defense should only be getting better. With an improved defense and a star offensive line in front of Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, they can weather a four game storm.


Bell will be out for their road games against the Redskins and the Eagles, and home games with the Bengals and the Chiefs. It does not look easy but it is still manageable, especially if only looking to go 2-2.

In their home bout with the rival Bengals, Cincinnati will be without their stud linebacker Vontaze Burfict due to suspension. The Chiefs will more than likely be traveling to Pittsburgh without Justin Houston. The road games will be tough, but of course the Eagles have a disgruntled quarterback, and if they just need to split on the road, it starts to feel like 2-2 is the floor.

Every other team will be facing their issues as well. Starting 2-2 and asking to finish 10-6 should not be a problem, and 10-6 should put this team back in the playoffs. If the four games only help strengthen Bell’s knee and this team is rolling in January, all will be forgiven.


When looking down the road, the Steelers should probably be thanking Bell. He just handed them all of the leverage when it comes to negotiating a long-term contract. Bell has rapped that he feels his play is worth $15 million per year, one more than Adrian Peterson who leads the league at his position by a long gap. He just kissed any talk of that goodbye.

The Steelers hold the ultimate trump card. Every season of his NFL career has either started or ended with a major knee surgery or a suspension. Mostly injured, but now is the second season that he will serving a suspension to start the year. He can come back and be a superstar, but there are now only two ways the negotiations go. The Steelers will extend him to a team friendly deal, or the Steelers will franchise tag him.

Bell now may be best off accepting the extension due to his health concerns, but he just lost a lot of guaranteed money. He can play out the franchise tag and try again for a deal, but that is betting on your knees that have already required two major procedures.

If Bell were to accept the franchise tag, it would also mean that Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Bell will all be free agents in 2018. Brown is obviously staying, but the Steelers now have leverage on Bell and Bryant. They can tell them both that they feel comfortable signing the other and letting one walk. It could make a player uneasy knowing that if you do not take the deal, you will not hear another offer.

The two can test the market, and may find more overall money, but with both of their pasts it is hard to say they can find a team willing to dish out more guaranteed money. If the Steelers are willing to bet on the upside, they have found their way into getting these young talents under contract throughout their primes.


It is not like it is a positive thing to see that Bell was suspended four games today. However, there are worse things to be suspended for. If the Steelers are blazing through the playoffs in January with a combination Bell, Brown, and Big Ben, and the Steelers lock up the star back on a team friendly deal in March, things could be worse.