Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract with the New York Jets last week, ending his absence from the NFL after he sat out the entire 2018 campaign because of a financial holdout.
Bell recently sat down with Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated (h/t Alaa Abdeldaiem of SI.com) and said he originally planned to skip just one week of the regular season before his circumstances and feelings changed:
"At first I was literally thinking like, 'I don't want to play camp and OTAs' because of the hurt in my body and I'm like, 'I'm not playing.' When Week 1 comes, I'm going to come, but the things that kind of led up to Week 1, I started thinking, 'I'm not going to play Week 1.' After even Week 1, it started to build up and it's not making me feel comfortable."
Per Abdeldaiem, "Bell said he couldn't recall specifically what kept him from returning early on in the season. By the Steelers' bye week, Bell said he was ready to return 'regardless of what they say.' When Bell realized that he could miss the entire season and still be franchise-tagged by the Steelers, he decided not to return."
Bell accumulated a league-high 406 touches, 1,946 yards from scrimmage and 11 total touchdowns for Pittsburgh in 2017. The three-time Pro Bowler has totaled 7,996 yards from scrimmage and 42 touchdowns in 62 career games.
That's a lot of production for the Steelers to be losing. In addition, Bell is leaving a consistent top-10 scoring offense for a Jets team that hasn't finished higher than eighth in scoring since 1998.
However, the two sides may be better off apart.
Bell now has a lucrative contract and is the centerpiece of a Jets offense that could begin scoring in droves thanks in part to talented second-year quarterback Sam Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft.
Pittsburgh seemed to do just fine without Bell last year thanks to the emergence of James Conner, who amassed 1,470 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns in 13 games. The Steelers finished sixth in the league in scoring sans Bell.
Bell will welcome his old team to his new home this year with the Steelers set to visit the Jets. The exact time and date has yet to be announced.