Posted on February 21, 2019, by Travis Pulver
It appears that the Pittsburgh Steelers have decided it is time to purge the franchise of drama. The process began on Tuesday with Antonio Brown and team president Art Rooney agreeing that it is time for Brown to move on.
From what general manager Kevin Colbert told reporters on Wednesday it sounds like they are moving on from an even larger drama—running back Le’Veon Bell.
There have been several reports in the media claiming that the Steelers front office was thinking about using the transition tag on Bell. That would give them the right to match any offer that teams might make once free agency starts.
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The intention isn’t to hold onto him, though. Doing so would be a last-ditch effort to try to get something for him rather than just letting him walk out the door. But, according to Colbert, they have no interest in using one of the tags on Bell.
“Le’Veon is still a great player,” Colbert said (ESPN). “We can’t afford to use any other type of tags. Le’Veon will be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year.”
Bell took to Twitter to express his feelings when he heard the news:
“Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty I am free at last.”
Colbert went on to say that the value of the transition tag eliminated it as an option. The team had hoped it could be as low as $9.5 million since he didn’t play last season. But it sounds like it was going to be $14.5 million.
That, coupled with the emergence of James Conner and Jaylen Samuels, made saying goodbye to Bell more palpable. But the Steelers will not necessarily walk away empty-handed; they will get a compensatory draft pick in 2020.
Had the Steelers tried to tag Bell and then trade him, they would have been faced with a grievance from the NFLPA. According to the collective bargaining agreement, teams are only supposed to use the franchise or transition tag when they intend on employing the tagged player.
But losing two players with the game-changing ability that Brown and Bell have is going to be tough on the Steelers. However, the run game ended up being fine without Bell last season and JuJu Smith-Schuster appears poised for a breakout season in 2019.
But are they still Super Bowl contenders? Well– according to Sports Betting Dime, as of February 13, the Steelers odds were +1800. That doesn’t make them a top contender, but it should get them a seat at the table at the start of the season.
If they are going to be a stronger contender will depend if the run game can pick up where it left off and whether they can replace Brown’s production. JuJu Smith-Schuster appears to be ready to try and step up. But then they will need someone to step into his role.
Right now, it would probably be best to avoid putting money down on the Steelers. It is great that the drama is finally over, but they still have to replace the production.