Growing up my father taught me two important lessons.
One, never count another man’s money.
Two, never judge a man until you’ve walked in his shoes.
Apparently, those life lessons weren’t imparted to everyone, as Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has been vilified by those who’ve never been in his position, for simply trying to get a raise.
Bell, who led the league in carries last season with 321, is currently holding out and refuses to sign a franchise tender that would pay him $14.5 million this season. So far he has forfeited $2.6 million by missing the Steelers’ first three games. He’s watched other running backs and big-name offensive players that carry the workload for their teams get paid recently and wants his money.
Bell watched as Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley signed a four-year extension that would pay him $57.5 million, in which $45 million was guaranteed.
He saw Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. agree to a five-year extension worth $95 million, that would pay him $65 million in guaranteed money.
In a sport where an athlete, especially one who touches the football as frequently as Bell, is just one snap away from a life-altering knee injury, it should be no surprise to anyone why he wants future earnings guaranteed.
And to make things even worse, Bell also watched as Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Arron Donald got paid like a top-tier quarterback when he signed a six-year extension worth $135 million with $87 million guaranteed.There’s no “I” in team, but if you play around with the letters long enough you can spell out “me.”
And that’s who Bell is rightfully focused on, himself. One of the best players in the league wants to be paid like it, and he isn’t budging until he does. Unfortunately, it’s rubbing some people the wrong way, including some of his teammates.
“What do you do? Here’s a guy who doesn’t give a damn, I guess, so we’ll treat it as such. I just hate it came to this,” said Steelers offensive lineman Ramon Foster to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“He’s making seven times what I make, twice as much as Al [Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva] is making, and we’re the guys who [block] for him.”
Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey, who is also the team’s captain, even questioned Bell’s competitiveness.
“After a couple of text messages and knowing Le’Veon as a competitor who wants to be the best in the league … but obviously he proved all of us wrong.” said Pouncey. “We just finally accept things at some point and you’re just like, all right, if you don’t want to be here, it is what it is, hold out for 10 weeks. It’s totally fine with us. As a team, we’re totally fine. It takes 11 guys, not one.”
But what Pouncey is forgetting is that Bell led the entire league in touches last season, was third in rushing yards, and was also the Steelers’ second-leading receiver.
And after players publicly spoke out against Bell, some voices rightfully directed venom in their direction.
“That was a straight up, punk-sucker move. I’m going to call it what it is,” said Stephen A. Smith on a recent episode of ESPN’s “First Take”. “You don’t do that to this man when you know he’s trying to get his money.
“To understand how this league works, and to go out there publicly and state what they’ve stated, it’s a disgrace.”
The mentality that some of Bell’s teammates have goes against everything I’ve been taught. Bell’s teammates don’t seem to understand the workload he carries for their team, and have no business being concerned with his paycheck.
That same notion is why the idea of “teamwork” can be a very flawed concept that people don’t truly understand across the sports world and even in Corporate America.
Because in actuality, teammates and team members are valued differently depending on their skill set and what they actually provide toward the betterment of the team. And there is no one more important to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ overall success, other than quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, than Bell.
He knows his worth and understands the value of his talents, and it’s an occurrence we’re seeing more and more, even in college football.
On Wednesday morning, former Clemson starting quarterback Kelly Bryant announced that he was transferring after being benched for freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence. The decision by Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney to change quarterbacks midseason wasn’t a shock as Lawrence came into the season highly touted.
So far this season, Lawrence has a better quarterback rating than Bryant (87 vs. 40), has a nearly identical completion percentage (65% vs. 66.7%), and has a better touchdown to interception ratio (9-2 vs. 2-1).
But Bryant started the past 18 games for one of the best programs in the country, and led them to a 12-2 record last season in which he accounted for over 3,400 yards and 24 total touchdowns.
“They asked me how I felt about it,” Bryant told The Greenville News about his meeting with Swinney. “I was like, I’m not discrediting Trevor. He’s doing everything asked of him, but on my side of it, I feel like I haven’t done anything to not be the starter. I’ve been here. I’ve waited my turn. I’ve done everything y’all have asked me to do, plus more.
“I’ve never been a distraction. I’ve never been in trouble with anything. To me, it was kind of a slap in the face.”
Bryant’s situation is similar to what’s going on with Jalen Hurts at Alabama, who was also a starter that lost his job to a hot-shot freshman.
Given the NCAA’s new redshirt rule, Hurts and Bryant can play in up to four games this season without burning their redshirt status. And since they can both graduate in December, they can transfer after graduation and play at a new school next season without having to sit out a year as is typical of transfers.
This concept of athletes putting themselves first is something that was once a tendency but is now a trend. Last season there were 211 graduate transfers playing in the FBS, which is 94 more than the 117 a year earlier, and a 92% increase from the 17 in 2011.
Whether it be for money or better opportunities to play, athletes are taking control of their careers like never before.