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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Le’Veon Bell’s pursuit of pay

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A battle between organization and athlete

The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently caught in a strong–arm battle of wills with star running back Le’Veon Bell.

Bell believes that the Steelers should be compensating him with the maximum salary possible, not only for his position but also for his contributions as a wide receiver. He’s now demanding that he gets paid as the number one running back, as he led the team in rushing (running with the ball from behind the line) and the number two receiver, as he was also second in receptions.

This is not the way players’ salaries are normally arranged, however. When a new player is brought onto a team, they typically begin under a franchise tag, which Bell is under now with the Steelers. This is basically a one year contract that guarantees a predetermined salary for a player.

Traditionally, the year after a player gets the tag, he and the organization will reach an agreement for a multi-year deal based on his season performance and the potential of his productivity in the future.

The contract is figured out by averaging the top five salaries by position from the previous year. Each team can only assign one franchise tag a year. The Steelers’ pick this year was Bell, offering him $14 million per season with the team. However, Bell has decided he is worth more.

The Steelers, in return, refuse to comply with the demands of Bell and just recently, removed his name from the depth charts, which show a team’s starting players.

Since the news broke, many have criticized Bell for being greedy and selfish. A number of his teammates have publicly spoken out about their disapproval and disappointment over his inability to concede.

Opposing sides blame the Steelers organization for not properly rewarding arguably the best running back in the league. Fans of the team, in turn, are left to choose sides or voice their anger with both points.

While the Steelers are known throughout the NFL as being one of the most well-run and structurally sound organizations in the league, this recent debacle has illuminated their internal flaws on a national level and left the fans confused and irritated.

Although Bell may just be the best football player there is right now, the Steelers should not agree to his terms.

For the Steelers, there’s a lot to lose in signing a 26-year-old running back to a long term deal. Running backs in the NFL historically have a small window of production. The position requires their bodies to take a ton of damage and the physicality of the sport adds up on someone who’s constantly being chased by 300-pound defenders. By the time Bell would reach the latter years of his contract, he’d be 30 years old.

The NFL is constantly evolving and shifting focus, so Bell doesn’t have time to be twiddling his thumbs about pay. In the past, offenses were centered on a dominant running back. Now, quarterbacks are doing the majority of the heavy lifting in a passing league.

According to ESPN’s Jason Fitz, a decade ago running backs were responsible for 41.2 percent of all yards from scrimmage. Fitz reports in today’s era of the NFL, they bring in 34.7 percent of total yardage and it’s decreasing every year.

Franchises are now more than ever seeking quarterbacks who will eventually become the face of their organization. Running backs are obviously an important facet to the game. If a team cannot run the ball, they will lose their unpredictability in play calling and obviously their chances to gain shorter amounts of yards or redzone punch-ins.

That said, there is an abundance of talent in the position throughout the NFL. There are younger players who have incredible speed, can pop up from a big hit and are filtered through in bunches each new season.

It doesn’t help Bell’s case that in his absence, his back-up, James Connor, had two touchdowns and rushed for nearly 200 yards.

It’s not that Bell should not receive a large salary in return for his contributions and level of talent. It’s that the Steelers should prepare for the inevitable culmination of his longevity and stock and save their finances for more reasonable, affordable and productive ventures.

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