Le’Veon Bell was one of the best running backs in the NFL and a star for the Steelers from 2013 to ’17. His success led to him wanting a long-term contract that he felt he deserved—but it never happened and instead, he left the team for the Jets.
Five years later, Bell admitted that he didn’t want to leave Pittsburgh and explained what soured his relationship with the team that drafted him.
“Yeah, it was a little petty, the little guarantee stuff,” Bell said on the Steel Here podcast. “I’m thinking like, ‘Damn, could I have really just ate it?’ Yeah, I probably could’ve. Probably could’ve really ate it.”
According to Bell, Pittsburgh offered him $13.3 million a year in 2017—a deal he declined, and the team franchise tagged him. Then in ’18, the Steelers offered him the same deal and he felt disrespected because he played through injury. He refused to accept the offer, sitting out the season and refusing to play under the tag. He then signed with New York in free agency for $52.5 million over four years in ’19. The deal included $35 million guaranteed.
Bell was never his Pro Bowl self again and the Steelers sorely missed him in their backfield.
“No, I didn’t want to leave Pittsburgh,” Bell said. “Because at the end of the day, that’s where I was at.”