The Steelers interest in locking up Le’Veon Bell isn’t just about the run game. It’s also designed to bridge the gap between Big Ben and Mason Rudolph.
Handoffs are a common occurrence in the NFL. Usually, that means a quarterback is handing the ball to a running back like Le’Veon Bell. In the case of the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s soon going to mean handing the starting quarterback position from Ben Roethlisberger to Mason Rudolph.
That doesn’t mean Bell isn’t going to be involved. He’s actually a crucial piece in the Steelers’ plan to make a smooth transition from Big Ben to his successor. The recent “optimism” from Bell about his chance to get a new contract from Pittsburgh is a direct result of the team’s work to make their quarterback transition as smooth as possible.
The Steelers front office smartly understands that Roethlisberger can’t be their franchise quarterback forever. That’s why they spent a third-round pick on Mason Rudolph this year. Of course, Rudolph isn’t ready to immediately step in and lead this team to the playoffs.
Instead, Rudolph is going to need at least a year of seasoning before he takes the helm. When he does, he’s going to be under immense pressure to produce immediately. The Steelers can’t count on Roethlisberger to go gracefully. It’s very likely he’ll only increase the pressure on Rudolph by claiming he should still be the starter.
Trying to break Rudolph in with an unknown quantity at the running back position would set him up to fail. Pittsburgh’s decision makers understand that. That’s why they are prepared to make sure Bell is on the team when they do make the quarterback switch. Rudolph will need a franchise running back like Bell to lean on as he adjust to life in the NFL.
Bell isn’t just capable of taking handoffs and grinding out yards. He’s also one of the best receivers on the team. Having such a high-quality safety valve will allow Rudolph some easy completions early in his career. Bell can take a 5-yard dump off and turn it into a long touchdown.
Expect the Steelers to offer Bell a new contract that will allow him to see the end of Roethlisberger’s career and the first two seasons of Rudolph’s reign. That sounds like a four-year deal on average. That length of contract also allows Pittsburgh to stop paying Bell big-time money before he hits the age of 30. That’s more than a happy coincidence for the front office. Thirty is the age where running backs start to lose their effectiveness at a pretty rapid rate.
Whenever the Steelers make the move from Roethlisberger to Rudolph isn’t going to be a shock for some fans. Fortunately, the team will still have Bell in the backfield when that change occurs. He’s the key to a successful quarterback transition in Pittsburgh.