Steelers offseason decisions hinge on Le’Veon Bell

We are mere weeks away from the beginning of the NFL free agency period. It will be a time filled with millions of dollars spent and some highly coveted free agents changing teams.

It’s also a time when the Steelers, who currently (by reports) sit $7.6 million dollars under the cap, as of February 20th, will need to make some pretty difficult decisions (if not sooner).

First and foremost, what will they decide to do with running back Le’Veon Bell? Everyone knows the story by now, he doesn’t want to play on another tag but he wants unprecedented money for a running back. He’s putting the Steelers in quite a bind.

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First, they don’t have the cap space, currently, to tag Bell. It would take some restructuring of contracts and the release of players just to cover the tag. Second, is he really worth $14 million plus per year as a running back? That’s the big debate and one I personally struggle with at times.

Bell is great, I’d love to see him back in a Steeler uniform, but at the right price. This team is on the verge of winning a championship but has holes to fill on defense. Bell will eat away at their opportunity to fill those holes. I don’t believe they should tag Bell. I think they should try to work out a long-term deal, perhaps of the five-year variety, giving Bell more than any other running back in the game but not overpaying by an exorbitant amount. If he signs, fantastic, you keep him until Ben Roethlisberger retires and then you cut him at that time. He’ll have played 8 years or so by then and the Steelers window will be closed when Ben walks out that door.

If he doesn’t sign, the Steelers will just move on, period. They can use James Conner and draft another back. They could also bring back Stevan Ridley and be fine. They may suffer in the passing game, a little, but I don’t think the rushing attack would be hurt badly if at all, to be honest.

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The changes have to come on defense, more than anywhere else and no one player, not even Bell should get in the way of that. This is a team game and it takes 53 guys to make a championship team. Some may be more important than others, but there is a measurement of that value and Bell is overvaluing his worth at the moment.

Defensively, they must obtain two inside linebackers. Ryan Shazier’s playing days may be behind him and he needs to be replaced. They need to find one in the draft, early and sign a veteran as well. I’m all for a return of Lawrence Timmons if the Dolphins release him. I think he has some left in the tank and is familiar with the team already, seems like a perfect fit and a potential bridge to the next linebacker, whomever that may turn out to be.

They also need to release Mike Mitchell. He’s done. He can run his mouth but he can’t play safety. He costs $8 million dollars and that isn’t worth it. They can save some of that money by releasing Mitchell, then the Steelers can move Sean Davis to Mitchell’s free safety and draft a strong safety who can handle that position better.

They must also find another outside linebacker. Bud Dupree has failed to live up to the hype and he should not have his 5th-year option for 2019 picked up. The Steelers can let him play out 2018 and move on. In the meantime, they may as well draft a guy that can either replace him in 19’ or start over him in 18’, either way, it’s necessary.

The bulk of the decisions must be made around a defense who faltered down the stretch. The difficult challenge is what Bell’s status with the team will allow them to do.

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