Le’Veon Bell

RB Le’Veon Bell Aiming For Steelers Return

Le’Veon Bell has not played in the NFL since 2021, but he is aiming to change that soon. The former All-Pro running back recently went public with his intention to return to the NFL.

Bell made it clear in a series of Snapchat videos that he will train this offseason in a bid to find an NFL opportunity. More specifically, though, he added that he is targeting a return to the Steelers, with whom he started his career. Bell played five seasons in Pittsburgh.

“And I’m gonna be honest with myself, I got to go out there and be like, I’m going to put my foot in the ground,” Bell said. “Do I feel it? Am I hurting? Can I go out there and really play again? And bro, I’m telling you all right now when I go out there and train in March and if I hit April and I make this decision to come back to play in the NFL again, mark my words down – I will be better than I ever was.

“And I will only come back for that one team. You all know who it is. I don’t have to say no team. You all know who it is.”

Bell’s Steelers tenure ended when he sat out the 2018 season, refusing to play on the franchise tag. That move allowed him to depart in free agency on a four-year, $52.5MM deal with the Jets the following year. His New York tenure (and the brief stints with the Chiefs, Ravens and Buccaneers which followed) did not go as planned, however. The three-time Pro Bowler has been out of football for the past two seasons, and he will be 32 by the time the 2024 campaign begins.

Those factors would weigh heavily against any player, let alone a running back. The position’s market has taken a downturn in recent years in large part due to the fall-off in production experienced by players as they reach their late 20s. In 2017, Bell received a league-leading offensive 402 touches, so past workloads would also be a concern for any interested teams.

The Michigan State alum has expressed regret for departing the Steelers, but it would be a surprise if Pittsburgh reciprocated his desire to explore a deal. The team has Jaylen Warren under contract for two more years, and Najee Harris is likely to have his 2025 fifth-year option picked up. With their backfield tandem seemingly in place for the short-term future, the Steelers are unlikely to have much interest in any signficant RB moves this offseason. If Bell manages to return to game shape, though, he could be a name to watch in free agency.

Buccaneers Activate Leonard Fournette From IR, Waive Le’Veon Bell

After the Buccaneers played without their top two running backs in their wild-card game, they are set to have one of them back against the Rams.

Leonard Fournette is coming off IR and will play Sunday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Tampa Bay’s starting back has been out since suffering a hamstring injury in Week 15. The Bucs designated Fournette for return last week but kept him on IR ahead of their Eagles matchup, moving forward with Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard.

This week, Fournette should play a major role. While it is not certain if the former top-five pick will be up for his pre-injury workload, the Bucs having their leading rusher back will certainly help their cause. The team’s running game might encounter tougher-than-usual sledding, given some key offensive line injuries.

Ryan Jensen and Tristan Wirfs did get in limited practices this week, but The Athletic’s Jeff Howe tweets the latter is dealing with a high ankle sprain. This troublesome ailment could keep Wirfs out, and even if the All-Pro right tackle plays, he figures to be far less than 100%. Wirfs has yet to miss a game in two seasons.

The Bucs will also be without Fournette backup Ronald Jones, but their primary 2020 back has not been much of a factor this season. After gaining only 367 rushing yards in 2020, which featured time as a healthy scratch, Fournette totaled 1,266 scrimmage yards and matched his career-high with 10 touchdowns despite the hamstring injury ending his regular season early. Fournette returning to his “Playoff Lenny” form would stand to cement his value ahead of free agency, which should feature a better market for the ex-Jaguar this time around.

To make room for Fournette, the Bucs are waiving Le’Veon Bell, Greg Auman of The Athletic tweets. This marks the second time this season a team has waived the former All-Pro. The Ravens cut bait during the regular season. Bell, however, makes sense as practice squad insurance for the Bucs. Bell’s route back to Tampa Bay’s taxi squad would be fairly smooth, given his one-year contract and any team claiming Bell being unable to use him in the playoffs.

Ravens To Release Le’Veon Bell

The Ravens are releasing Le’Veon Bell, per an announcement from the running back himself. As a post-trade-deadline cut, he’ll be subject to the waiver wire before potentially reaching the open market. 

This hurts, but it’s been a blessing to be here to say the least,” Bell tweeted. “I’ve enjoyed every second of this short period and got a whole new meaning of what this city is like..it’s a great place to be. I appreciate [GM Eric DeCosta] and [head coach] John Harbaugh for the opportunity to be called a Raven.”

[RELATED: Ravens Activate TE Nick Boyle]

While a reunion is possible, per Harbaugh, Bell’s 2.7-yard average this season does not present considerable upside. Bell joined the Ravens’ taxi squad in early September and earned a promotion to the varsity squad soon after. The 29-year-old has appeared in a total of five games this season, collecting 31 touches for 83 yards and two touchdowns.

I really appreciate everything about him: professionalism, attitude, work ethic,” Harbaugh said, via ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley. “Being around him is a joy every single day. He’s really a great guy and he helped us.”

Bell has had issues holding a job since his famed 2018 holdout. No longer producing like his old All-Pro self, he was limited to just 466 yards between the Jets and Chiefs last year. Still, he did register more than 1,000 all-purpose yards with Gang Green in 2019.

The Ravens were expected to use Bell quite a bit following injuries to J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill. Instead, they’ll stick to the rest of their RBs — Devonta Freeman, Ty’Son Williams, and Latavius Murray.

Ravens Sign RB Le’Veon Bell To Active Roster

Le’Veon Bell will no longer have to deal with the taxi squad. The Ravens have signed the veteran running back to their 53-man roster, reports ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter).

Bell joined Baltimore’s practice squad in early September, and he’s been promoted to the active roster a handful of times. The 29-year-old has gotten into two games this season, collecting 12 touches for 29 yards and one touchdown. He’s seen time on 42 offensive snaps.

Since sitting out the 2018 season due to a contract dispute, Bell has had issues holding a job, much less matching his All-Pro production. He surpassed 1,000 all-purpose yards with the Jets in 2019, but he was limited to only 466 yards in 2020 as he split the season with New York and Kansas City.

With J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill all dealing with seasons-ending injuries, the Ravens brought in Bell for some extra depth. Even though he now has an official spot on the active roster, he’ll still find himself behind the likes of Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman, and Ty’Son Williams on the depth chart.

Ravens Activate Bateman, Phillips From IR

Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman will make his NFL debut this weekend in a heavily anticipated matchup between two exciting young QBs in Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and the Chargers’ Justin Herbert. Head coach John Harbaugh apprised reporters of the news today (Twitter link via Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic).

Baltimore activated both Bateman and guard Tyre Phillips from IR Saturday. Phillips has been out since Week 1 due to a knee injury that required cart transportation. He began the season as the Ravens’ starting left guard. This move comes shortly after the Ravens placed rookie fill-in Ben Cleveland, who has split time at left guard with Ben Powers, on IR. Baltimore promoted Le’Veon Bell and tackle Andre Smith from its practice squad as well.

The Ravens have managed a 4-1 record despite a rash of injured stars and key contributors, including their top two RBs — J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards — CB Marcus Peters, LT Ronnie Stanley, and many others besides. Bateman, the 27th-overall pick of this year’s draft, joined the club’s MASH unit after suffering a significant groin pull in training camp that ultimately required surgery. Baltimore put its rookie wideout on IR and designated him for return at the end of September.

The Ravens’ ground game, which was the club’s calling card over the past several years, has been subdued in 2021 thanks in large part to the aforementioned injuries to Dobbins and Edwards (and thanks to opposing defenses gearing up to stop the run). But Jackson has elevated his passing abilities and his receivers have played well, allowing Baltimore to sustain a productive aerial attack, which Bateman should further bolster.

Unfortunately (but not unsurprisingly), Bateman’s debut coincides with the loss of fellow wideout Sammy Watkins. Watkins signed a one-year contract with the Ravens this spring, and he had developed a strong rapport with Jackson, catching 18 passes for 292 yards (good for a 16.2 YPR mark, which would be the second-highest figure of his career). Watkins suffered a hamstring injury in Monday’s dramatic win over the Colts, and he has been ruled out for the Chargers game this week (Twitter link via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com). There is no definitive timetable for Watkins at this point, but it does not sound like the team will put him on IR just yet.

Meanwhile, Baltimore continues to be without TE Nick Boyle. Boyle is an effective ancillary receiving target in his own right, but his primary contribution has been as a blocker. He is regarded as one of the best blocking tight ends in the league, and his return could help the running game get back on track. As with Watkins, there is no definitive return date for Boyle, but Harbaugh said the Delaware product will come off of IR soon (Twitter link via Hensley).

Boyle has been recovering from a severe knee injury he suffered last November, which ended his 2020 season prematurely.

Ravens Receiving Trade Interest On RBs

The Ravens are receiving trade inquiries on their running backs, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter. Their revamped backfield currently features second-year pro Ty’Son Williams plus veterans Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman, and Le’Veon Bell

[RELATED: Ravens Elevate RB Le’Veon Bell]

The Ravens’ position group was decimated by injuries to J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill just before the start of the season. Now, their replacements are drawing interest from teams in advance of the November 2 trade deadline.

Through four games, the Ravens have averaged 164.5 rushing yards per contest, good for fourth in the league. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is responsible for much of their ground game success, but Williams has also impressed with 164 rushing yards and a touchdown off of 27 carries — good for a 6.1 ypc average. Freeman, in a much smaller sample of six attempts, has averaged 6.8 yards per tote. Meanwhile, Murray has three rushing TDs to lead the team.

They’ll all look to advance the Ravens to 4-1 tonight when they face the Colts in Baltimore.

Ravens Elevate RB Le’Veon Bell

Le’Veon Bell‘s Ravens debut could be coming soon. The team elevated the former All-Pro running back to its active roster Saturday, doing so while placing Derek Wolfe on IR.

Amid a brutal run of injuries at running back, the Ravens worked out Bell shortly before Week 1 and signed him to their practice squad. Baltimore promoted Devonta Freeman ahead of the ex-Steelers star but now will have Bell on its active roster as well in Week 4.

Bell joins Freeman, Ty’Son Williams and Latavius Murray on Baltimore’s 55-man Week 4 roster. Teams can dress up to 48 players each week. The Ravens have gone with a committee approach at running back, using Williams and Murray mostly. Freeman has seen sporadic work behind the team’s top duo.

To label Bell’s past three-plus years as underwhelming would be quite the understatement. Following Bell’s 2018 full-season holdout, the lucrative Jets deal he inked failed spectacularly. The Jets dropped Bell midway through last season. While the Chiefs picked him up, Bell saw scant action in the playoffs and was a healthy scratch for both the AFC championship game and Super Bowl LV. The Ravens extended the two-time All-Pro another chance, however, and Bell will likely soon begin his age-29 season.

Wolfe has not played this season and will miss his Denver homecoming game. The eight-year Broncos starter signed with the Ravens in 2020 and played in 14 games, but back and hip injuries have sidelined him since August. The veteran defensive lineman will be out through at least Week 6.

Baltimore also elevated tackle Andre Smith and cornerback Kevon Seymour from its practice squad, with Smith being named a COVID-19 roster replacement for Jaylon Ferguson, who will miss a second straight game after having tested positive. The Ravens did not activate receivers Rashod Bateman or Miles Boykin.

Ravens To Sign RB Le’Veon Bell

Le’Veon Bell will move to the other side of one of the NFL’s top rivalries. After years with the Steelers, the former All-Pro running back agreed to terms with the Ravens on Tuesday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Bell, whose Jets and Chiefs stints were far less successful, received a workout opportunity with the Ravens on Monday. Baltimore has lost J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill for the season. The Ravens, who auditioned Bell and Devonta Freeman, will bring in the former to help fill the void.

Interestingly, this is a practice squad agreement. While Bell figures to be bumped up to Baltimore’s active roster, he will join the team’s 16-man taxi squad for the time being.

This will be Bell’s age-29 season, and he is not heading to Maryland with much momentum. The accomplished back’s four-year, $52.5MM deal quickly created a sunk cost for the Jets, who dropped him midway through the 2020 season. The Chiefs added Bell soon after and used him sporadically during the regular season’s stretch run. Kansas City then made Bell a healthy scratch in two of its three playoff games, including Super Bowl LV.

In Pittsburgh, Bell was one of the NFL’s best backs. He stampeded to first-team All-Pro acclaim in 2014 and ’17, helping the Steelers assemble one of the NFL’s best offenses for a lengthy stretch in the 2010s. Although Bell’s 2018 holdout decision and subsequent Pittsburgh exit essentially serves as a line of demarcation for his career, the Ravens present an interesting redemption opportunity.

Baltimore boasts the NFL’s top rushing attack and does not have any proven backs behind new starter Gus Edwards. Second-year UDFA Ty’Son Williams has impressed this offseason, but the losses of Dobbins and Hill created an immediate need for the team.

This Date In Transactions History: Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell Signs Franchise Tender

On this date in 2017, Le’Veon Bell‘s first holdout officially came to an end. On September 4, 2017, the star running back inked his franchise tender with the Steelers.

By the start of the 2017 regular season, Bell had already established himself as one of the best running backs in football. The former second-round pick had exceeded 1,000 yards from scrimmage in three of his first four seasons, and he collected 31 touchdowns through his first four campaigns. Thanks to that production, Bell wanted to be paid like one of the top running backs in the NFL, and the Steelers were certainly willing to oblige…on their terms. The team seemed to be operating on a year-by-year approach before committing big money to Bell. It was hard to blame the organization; the running back missed three games as a rookie, 10 games in 2015, and another four games in 2016. The team clearly wanted Bell to prove he could stay healthy.

Ultimately, Bell stayed home during training camp and the 2017 preseason after the two sides couldn’t reach agreement on an extension before the deadline. Bell’s decision to hold out was mostly a sign of defiance, but it didn’t sound like there was any tension between the two sides. It was reported throughout the offseason that Bell would show up for Week 1, and he did just that. That led to the September 4th transaction, when Bell inked his franchise tender. The move locked him into a one-year, $12.12MM deal.

Bell had another standout season in 2017, and he managed to appear in 15 games. He earned first-team All-Pro honors after finishing the season with 1,946 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns on a league-leading 406 carries. He also had a pair of touchdowns in the Steelers’ playoff loss to the Jaguars.

Instead of inking Bell to a long-term deal, the Steelers decided to play hard ball again in 2018. The team utilized the franchise tag for a second-straight season, meaning Bell would earn $14.5MM that year. Predictably, the running back held out again, but he’d never return to the team. He didn’t report to the team prior to the deadline to ink his franchise tender, making him ineligible to play in 2018. The Steelers didn’t use the franchise tag in 2019, which finally made Bell a free agent.

The running back ended up getting a four-year, $52.5MM deal from the Jets, and he was somewhat productive during his first season in New York, finishing with 1,250 yards from scrimmage. He dealt with injuries in 2020 and hinted that he wanted a trade, leading to his outright release. He caught on with the Chiefs for the stretch run, and he finished with 353 yards from scrimmage in his nine games with Kansas City. He only saw time in one of the Chiefs’ three playoff games. The 29-year-old remains unsigned for the 2021 season.

It’s hard not to wonder how Bell’s career would currently look had he not sat out that 2018 campaign. His 2017 holdout was a precursor of things to come, and despite the fact that he signed his tag (on this date in 2017), the whole event certainly played a role in his future negotiations with the Steelers.

This Date In Transactions History: Steelers Extend Antonio Brown, Franchise Le’Veon Bell

On February 27, 2017, things were looking pretty good in Pittsburgh. Following a 2016 campaign that saw the Steelers make it to the AFC Championship, the organization committed to two of their offensive stars on the same day. On this date four years ago, the organization extended wideout Antonio Brown and franchised running back Le’Veon Bell. No one knew at the time that both these players would soon be playing for different teams.

By 2017, the two duo had already proven themselves among the top players at their respective positions. Brown was coming off four-straight campaigns that saw him surpass 1,000 yards receiving, and he hauled in 43 touchdowns during that four-year span. There had yet to be much drama for the perennial Pro Bowler; while a 2016 locker-room video led to discipline, Brown had otherwise been a good soldier. As a result, the Steelers felt more than comfortable making him the (then) highest-paid pass-catcher of all-time. The wideout ended up inking a lucrative four-year extension worth $68MM ($19MM guaranteed) that would last through the 2021 season.

“Antonio is a good guy, a good person,” team president Art Rooney II said at the time. “I enjoy our personal relationship. His teammates like to have him on the team. He is a hard worker.

“AB is a big contributor to our success, has been for several years now, and I think he’s capable of continuing to be that kind of player. I think he’s someone who wants to be a great player and works hard to be that. Hopefully, he’ll continue to evolve as a player and as a person.”

Despite only appearing in 12 games during the 2016 season, Bell still put up some gaudy numbers. He finished the campaign with 1,884 all-purpose yards and nine total touchdowns, earning him a Pro Bowl spot. While the two sides were eager to figure out a long-term deal, the Steelers ultimately placed the franchise tag on their star running back, locking him into a $12MM salary for 2017. After becoming the fastest player in NFL history to hit 3,000 career rushing yards and 1,500 career receiving yards, coach Mike Tomlin said at the time that the team wanted to reward their running back for his continued improvement.

“Just understanding how to play the position, the nuances of the position, the protection of the ball, the protection of himself,” the head coach said. “He is a guy that has got some talent, but equally or more important than that he has a desire to be great and a work ethic to boot. He is a much better conditioned athlete today that he was in 2014. I mean it when I say all areas.”

2017 proved to be a fine year for Brown, Bell, and the Steelers. Both players earned Pro Bowl nods after combining for 3,479 all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns en route to a 13-win campaign. The wheels fell off soon after. During the 2018 offseason, the Steelers once again slapped the franchise tag on Bell, but the running back refused to sign the tender. Despite occasional reports of reconciliation and a potential long-term extension, Bell’s hold out ended up lasting the entire season. He became a free agent the following offseason and inked a four-year deal with the Jets.

Brown was productive again in 2018, finishing with a career-high 15 receiving touchdowns. However, there started to be some reports of tension toward the end of that campaign. Brown apparently engaged in an argument with Ben Roethlisberger and skipped practices before their Week 17 content, leading to Brown’s benching. We later learned that Brown had become disgruntled with his role in Pittsburgh and wanted a trade. The Steelers agreed that a breakup was necessary, and they dealt Brown to the Raiders during the 2019 offseason.

Things haven’t necessarily gone swimmingly for either player since leaving Pittsburgh. Bell’s stint in New York last less than two seasons, and after cutting cut in October, he settled into a minor backup role with the Chiefs. Brown’s stint with the Raiders barely last six months; following bizarre behavior and arguments with executives, he was released by the team. He subsequently joined the Patriots, but he was cut following allegations of sexual misconduct. Following a retirement, an un-retirement, another retirement, and another un-retirement, Brown was slapped with an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He caught on with the Buccaneers in October, and he ended up hauling in two playoff touchdowns during Tampa Bay’s path to a Super Bowl championship (which somewhat ironically came against Bell’s Chiefs).

The Steelers struggled a bit during the 2018 and 2019 campaigns, combining for only 17 wins between the two seasons. They got back to their winning ways in 2020, finished 12-4 before losing in the Wild Card game.

When these transactions were completed four years ago today, there was plenty of excitement for both the players and the team. We’re sure neither side anticipated how both of these scenarios would ultimately play out.