The Steelers are hesitant to give Le’Veon Bell a long-term deal because of his position. Bell believes he’s going to play much longer than other NFL backs.
Anytime another professional athlete compares himself to LeBron James it’s safe to view his words with a healthy amount of skepticism. Even though Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell did just that, it’s interesting to consider whether or not he’s right about his body’s potential for a longer than average career in the NFL.
The typically short career span of running backs in the NFL is largely believed to be the reason Pittsburgh won’t offer Bell the sort of long-term contract he covets. As such, it’s understandable that Bell would want to do anything in his power to break that stereotype.
That’s why Bell is going on the offensive with the media about his potential to play well into his 30s. He recently told ESPN reporter Jeremy Fowler that he doesn’t “compare (himself) to a lot of other running backs” when it comes to his body. Instead, he thinks he can maintain his body by avoiding serious hits in the field. Bell simply believes he can run past or around the majority of NFL defenders. Subsequently, he doesn’t take the “car crash” hits that his peers do.
It’s a nice theory, but it’s unlikely he can really do much to extend his career. Taking care of his body in the offseason and avoiding big hits might be enough to buy him another productive season or two, but it’s highly unlikely he’s going to be productive at LeBron’s age. That is a phenomenon that is rare, but possible in the NBA. At the running back it’s entirely unheard of in the NFL.
Ultimately, the latest words by Bell just represent another clever move by he and his representatives. They know the Steelers are subtly telling their fans that age is the reason they won’t sign Bell to a long-term deal. It’s possible he can exert some additional pressure on the franchise by changing the public narrative.
Bell is a special running back, but he’s not that special. He needs to enjoy being a Pro Bowl player now, because it’s not going to be his reality forever.