Le’Veon Bell isn’t likely to show up for the start of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp on Thursday after not getting a new long-term contract last week. In the meantime, at least one teammate is making sure the running back knows how important he is.
Steelers All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that he had a “top secret” two-hour phone conversation with Bell on Saturday night. While the specifics are secret, Brown wanted Bell to know how much Pittsburgh values his playmaking.
“We need him. I need him,” Brown said. “If we’re going to do what we desire to do, we need every guy a part of the organization in a helmet to be there committed to the cause. He’s a special piece. Obviously, we know what he brings to the team, his dimension playing football, but he’s a special individual. I pray that we have him there.”
Bell’s importance to the Steelers offense is clear. The dual-threat became the first player in NFL history to average at least 100 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards per game for a season. He averaged 157.0 scrimmage yards per game in 2016. Bell finished the season as Pittsburgh’s top running back with 1,268 yards and No. 2 receiver with 75 catches for 616 yards.
During Pittsburgh’s nine-game winning streak from last year, which propelled them to the AFC Championship Game, Bell was the engine of the Steelers‘ offense. During the stretch, he rushed for 90-plus yards in the eight contests he played (sitting out the regular season finale), with seven games of 115-plus rushing yards. Bell was the workhorse in the Steelers‘ two playoff wins, averaging 29.5 carries and 168.5 rushing yards, despite tweaking his groin.
Bell will play on the $12.1 million franchise tag in 2017. Until he signs the tender, Bell is not obligated to show up for training camp.