Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw is on the phone. He's smart (yeah, I said smart) and funny and charming as hell. He's also emphatic about one of the hottest topics in football now.
"If you're going to win the Super Bowl, you're going to win with Le'Veon Bell."
It's a point that has generated some debate after James Conner's competent Week 1 performance as the Pittsburgh starter, but the idea that Bell is irreplaceable does carry more weight when one of the most important voices in Steelers, and football, history says it.
Bradshaw is more worried about Bell's absence than he is about Ben Roethlisberger's presence. The current Steelers quarterback was pretty terrible in last week's 21-21 tie against the Browns (otherwise known as a Browns victory). Roethlisberger completed just 56 percent of his passes and threw three interceptions. It was so abysmal, a scout told B/R's Matt Miller: "That was one of the worst games I've ever seen from Big Ben. Not only the interceptions, he just wasn't accurate at all. You have to wonder if the end is closer for him than they thought."
Bradshaw disagrees and thinks Roethlisberger will be fine.
"For sure, I don't look at last week at all in terms of Ben," said Bradshaw, who was made available to B/R by Pfizer's All About Your Boom campaign. "He's a top-five talent in this league."
More important is who wasn't playing—Bell. "The players were distracted and the focus wasn't there," Bradshaw said. "That was the main problem."
To Bradshaw, and many others around the sport, the key to the Steelers' success is Bell. It's a simple equation. With Bell, this is a Super Bowl team. Without him, it isn't. And should the Steelers lose to Kansas City this weekend, Bradshaw feels the Steelers will need to "take a harder look" at that reality.
This remains an important, and highly divisive, debate in the NFL, especially in light of Conner's 135 yards rushing, 57 yards receiving and two touchdowns against the Browns (yes, the Browns, whose defense seems legit).
This has led to an outpouring of hot takes wondering if Bell really is all that valuable.
Let's put that to rest now.
Conner is good.
Bell is special.
Bradshaw knows, which is why he didn't hesitate when he was asked how he would have handled the Bell situation.
"I would have signed him," Bradshaw said. "I would have given him his money."
But still, both Bell and the Steelers wait, both trying to figure out what life is like without each other in it. It's not a reality either will like, Bradshaw thinks: "I hope he comes in soon. They need him and he needs them. He goes into the Hall of Fame if he stays in Pittsburgh."
That's a strong statement, but Bradshaw is right. Bell is that good.
Despite the waiting game, just guess whom Bradshaw picked for the Super Bowl?
"Pittsburgh and New Orleans," he said. "But wait. I get to change my picks in six weeks."
"Yes," he said, "because how was I supposed to know the Steelers would tie the Browns and that old guy in Tampa was going to be great."
That "old guy in Tampa" would be quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is 35 years old and threw for four touchdowns last week against the Saints.
Six weeks is a long time in the NFL. Who knows; it may even see Bell back on the field.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.