By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s officially time for football in Pittsburgh … for everybody except Le’Veon Bell. That’s something that’s starting to tick off his Steelers teammates.
With Bell still not showing up for work or signing his franchise tag tender by Wednesday, it’s starting to set in that the all-world running back is actually willing to skip some games this season. His teammates, perhaps believing throughout the summer that the holdout would end once the real season began, are clearly not happy with this absence.
Veteran guard Ramon Foster complained that he and his offensive line brethren open up the running lanes for him while getting paid a fraction of Bell’s salary, and they’re all suited up and ready to go for Week 1.
From Ed Bouchette:
The comment of “We’re the guys who do it for him” is sure to be remembered for some time in that locker room.
Another offensive lineman — six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro Maurkice Pouncey — said that the Steelers would almost rather Bell just announce that he won’t show up until Week 10, to eliminate the drama and uncertainty.
Pouncey also suggested that in the NFL, a star can be replaced in a flash.
From Aditi Kinkhabwala:
Kinkhabwala had another quote from Pouncey, who instructed Bell in no uncertain terms to “man up.”
This quote from Pouncey — courtesy of Jeremy Fowler — also packs a punch.
Cam Heyward, another veteran, seemed perfectly OK with moving on without Bell.
One Steelers teammate went the anonymous route, too:
Earlier in the day, Foster’s mood appeared to be a bit light, as evidenced by his “Where’s Waldo?” tweet:
Clearly, sentiments developed a bit as the day went on.
As background, the Steelers placed the franchise tag on Bell this offseason for the second straight year. He said he wouldn’t show up until Week 1 if he did not receive a long-term contract, but he now appears to be taking that promise and extending the expiration date of his holdout. If he wants the year to count, he’ll need to sign the franchise tag and report to work before Week 11. Otherwise, the dance will be re-ignited next offseason. In the meanwhile, his Steelers will have to fend for themselves without his services. (It helps that their season opens with a game against … the Browns.)
Is it possible that such relationships can be mended? Of course. It wasn’t long ago that things were good — very good — among the men involved.
But with the Steelers still looking like one of a handful of teams who can actually contend for an AFC crown this season, starting the year with veteran leaders calling out one of their two most talented players is not what anyone in that organization would prefer.