While he’s already said he didn’t want to leave the Steelers, Le’Veon Bell apologized to Steelers fans for leaving the team via his Snapchat story.
“Look, I don’t know how many times I’ve gone on podcast interviews and said I wish things turned on differently. But you’re right. I never apologized to the fans for really sitting out or leaving the Steelers. I never apologized. So, I’m gonna say I apologize for leaving the best fans there is in this damn world. I shouldn’t have left. I apologize. I should never have left. I apologize. That’s my fault. That’s on me,” Bell said via his Snapchat.
Bell leaving was a foregone conclusion after he sat out the 2018 season. If anything, that’s what he should be apologizing for. The Steelers went 9-6-1 and missed the playoffs with James Conner running for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns, no doubt good numbers, but Bell was at the peak of his game.
After leaving in free agency to sign with the New York Jets, his career bottomed out, never reaching more than 789 yards in a season again. Bell blamed Adam Gase for a lot of his struggles with the Jets, and who knows how his career would’ve turned out differently if he did stay in Pittsburgh. He likely would’ve been more successful, but given how short the peak is for running backs, he might not have been the same player he was early in his career, especially given his injury history.
Bell wants to retire a Steeler, and I’m sure he thinks his Snapchat apology will help put him back in the good graces of fans. But he’s not going to come back and retire with the team, especially given his 2018 holdout probably damaged a lot of the relationships he had inside the organization.
There’s always going to be that “what-if” regarding whether Bell stayed and Antonio Brown never forced his way out of Pittsburgh. It’s pretty sad that the “Killer B’s” of Brown, Bell and Ben Roethlisberger could never reach, let alone win, a Super Bowl together. So while that “what-if” will linger, there’s also the chance that injuries get to Bell in Pittsburgh like they did with the Jets and the Steelers are stuck with an albatross of a contract.
In the end, Pittsburgh got a few good years out of James Conner and then moved on to Najee Harris, who should have a breakout 2023 season. It didn’t necessarily work out for either player or team, but the Steelers’ situation ended up a lot better than Bell’s, and the Steelers were smart not to give a lot of money to a running back with injury issues.
So while he probably should’ve stayed to better his own career, it just was never going to happen as Pittsburgh wasn’t going to give Bell a contract he thought he deserved in the moment. Hindsight is 20-20, but what’s done is done and Bell chose to leave, as much as he clearly regrets it now.