PITTSBURGH (CBS Sports/KDKA) — Le’Veon Bell is apparently back in Pittsburgh.
After creating a buzz at a local fitness center last night, Bell tweeted a message in upside down lettering to his Twitter account on Wednesday evening.
“Just about everybody has an opinion on my life and worried about what I’m doing… don’t judge me off my decisions because maybe this isn’t what you’d do… but most people don’t take the time to just simply read between the lines… and that’s clearly on them… I’m not apologizing for what I believe is right for myself, family, and the rest of my peers, period… also if you’re really finding the time to figure out what I’m saying, you’ve proved by point.”
˙˙˙ɯǝɥʇ uo ʎןɹɐǝןɔ s’ʇɐɥʇ &˙˙˙sǝuıן ǝɥʇ uǝǝʍʇǝq pɐǝɹ ʎןdɯıs ʇsnظ oʇ ǝɯıʇ ǝɥʇ ǝʞɐʇ ʇ’uop ǝןdoǝd ʇsoɯ ʇnq˙˙˙op p’noʎ ʇɐɥʍ ʇ’usı sıɥʇ ǝqʎɐɯ ǝsnɐɔǝq suoısıɔǝp ʎɯ ɟɟo ǝɯ ǝbpnظ ʇ’uop˙˙˙buıop ɯ’ı ʇɐɥʍ ʇnoqɐ pǝıɹɹoʍ & ǝɟıן ʎɯ uo uoıuıdo uɐ sɐɥ ʎpoqʎɹǝʌǝ ʇnoqɐ ʇsnظ
— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) November 7, 2018
ʇuıod ʎɯ pǝʌoɹd ǝʌ’noʎ 'buıʎɐs ɯ’ı ʇɐɥʍ ʇno ǝɹnbıɟ oʇ ǝɯıʇ ǝɥʇ buıpuıɟ ʎןןɐǝɹ ǝɹ’noʎ ɟı osןɐ˙˙˙poıɹǝd 'sɹǝǝd ʎɯ ɟo ʇsǝɹ ǝɥʇ puɐ 'ʎןıɯɐɟ 'ɟןǝsʎɯ ɹoɟ ʇɥbıɹ sı ǝʌǝıןǝq ı ʇɐɥʍ ɹoɟ buızıboןodɐ ʇou ɯ’ı
— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) November 7, 2018
On Tuesday night, a photo surfaced on Twitter of the Steelers’ All-Pro running back playing in a pickup basketball game at the LA Fitness on McKnight Road in McCandless. The gym general manager confirmed the Bell sighting to KDKA-TV Wednesday afternoon.
John Maus posted a live video on Snapchat Tuesday. He told KDKA’s Kym Gable Bell’s appearance on the basketball court caused quite the buzz.
“It wasn’t your typical day. It was definitely a little bit different. Le’Veon’s definitely been the talk of the town for 10 weeks now,” Maus said.
Maus says he was getting ready for his daily workout when he saw Bell walk by.
KDKA’s Kym Gable Reports:
“I was kind of just like break-neck situation, like you just saw everyone looking. Next thing you know, it’s Le’Veon walking out of the bathroom into the basketball court.”
Gable: “Everyone snapping photos?”
Maus: “It was hard not to. It was kind of a big deal, but it was such a split second thing, it was just something you had to get real quick.”
Bell tweeted that he was leaving Miami earlier this week, as anticipation continues to built with regard to Bell’s expected return to the team.
Fairwell Miami 👋🏾
— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) November 5, 2018
The Steelers offered Bell a reported five-year deal worth about $13.3 million per season during the 2017 offseason. Bell turned down the offer and instead played under the franchise tag that paid him $12.12 million (all guaranteed) last season.
Bell and the Steelers were again unable to come to terms on a long-term deal this past offseason despite Pittsburgh offering Bell a reported five-year deal worth $70 million that included $33 million guaranteed and $45 million within the first three years of the contract. In February, Bell said on social media that, if the two sides could not come to terms on a long-term deal by the July 17 deadline that he would probably reprise what he did in the summer of 2017 by skipping training camp and the preseason before signing his tender before Week 1 of the regular season.
Bell, however, did not return to the Steelers before the start of the regular season. His decision not to return to the team in time to play in their Week 1 matchup against the Browns drew criticism from several of his teammates that included offensive linemen Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Ramon Foster.
Some of Bell’s other teammates, specifically Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, have elected to avoid saying anything critical of Bell during his holdout.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, on numerous occasions, has said that Bell’s status on the team in terms of in-game participation would be based on his conditioning and overall readiness whenever he returned to the team.
“I think the team has handled it well,” Rooney said of Bell’s ongoing situation. “The players have adjusted, just carrying on without him. That’s all you can do. But it’s early in the season, we have a long way to go. We just have to keep getting better every week. Can’t take anything for granted.”
In Bell’s absence, his replacement, James Conner, has thrived.
On Sunday, Conner, Pittsburgh’s third-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft, became the first running back in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards, record at least 50 receiving yards and score at least one touchdown in four different games during the same season. In Sunday’s 23-16 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, Conner rushed for 107 yards while also catching seven passes for 56 yards and a touchdown.
“I don’t want to take anything away from James [Conner], but the big boys up front are opening up holes, and so it’s a collective effort,” Tomlin said of Conner’s performance following Sunday’s game. “James [Conner] is going above and beyond, but I am more pleased on what he is doing in the passing game from a blitz pickup standpoint. That’s a little more unique than the rushing. We knew he could run the ball since he showed up at Pitt at 18 or 19 years old.”
Conner’s success is helping the Steelers win games. After a 1-2-1 start to the season, Pittsburgh has won four consecutive games and would be the No. 3 seed if the AFC playoffs started today. The Steelers’ four-game winning streak has included three consecutive wins over AFC North foes Cincinnati, Cleveland and Baltimore, as Pittsburgh is currently 3-1-1 after divisional opponents.
Given Conner’s success, Bell is expected to be on another NFL team in 2019 despite his wishes to remain with the Steelers for the remainder of his career.
“I could be naïve or hopeful, but at the end of the day I feel like that’s what’s going to happen,” Bell recently told Fowler about staying with the Steelers for the remainder of his career. “I don’t think they really want me gone. That could be me being prideful. But I’m still holding out hope.”