Dunlap: Bell Not Showing Up Starting To Be Taken Personal

Steelers G Ramon Foster among those who seem put off

Colin Dunlap
September 04, 2018 - 1:18 pm

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

I have said this before a few times. I don't exactly know who the heart of the Pittsburgh Steelers is. But I know who the soul is. It is veteran guard Ramon Foster. 

When he speaks, people listen. 

When he says something, it is met with a certain reverence few --- if any others --- on the team have. 

When he talks, it means more than a lot. 

Foster, to be sure, is a leader of the leaders within the locker room and a big-time voice for a big-time franchise even as he doesn't play a sexy position, yell and scream boisterously or carry on in a showy manner. 

That's why what Foster said on The Fan Morning Show during his weekly spot on Tuesday really punched me straight between the eyes. This isn't cute any more. Enough is enough. Everyone who plays for the Steelers understands the business side of it, but it's time to get on board or move aside. That's the message he appeared to be throwing in the direction of running back Le'Veon Bell, who doesn't like the franchise tag he has been saddled with and, as a result, hasn't shown up for practice even with a date against the Cleveland Browns on the horizon this coming Sunday. 

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To wit, Foster explained: “I want to win a damn Super Bowl, period. I want the parade, I want the fire trucks out, I want the convertible, Corvette in the parade that’s all I care about and if he’s going to be all in, making that happen, I’m OK with that.”

But if Bell isn't, by the tone and inflection in Foster's voice and the way he spoke glowingly about second-string running back James Conner, it was clear he was just fine moving on. I got that same feel from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who appeared with Joe Starkey and Ron Cook on 93.7 The Fan just a few hours after Foster. 

"I know some coaches have tried to reach out," Roethlisberger said of Bell. "Players have tried to reach out and I think he's just kind of kept his quiet and his distance.  I don't know too many guys that have heard from him."

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin --- at his news gathering session --- confirmed he hasn't spoken to Bell this week. 

It is with all of that that I sense a frustration setting in for the first time. The way, in particular, that Foster spoke it sounded like a frustration tinged with we're-just-ready-to-play-football tone. To me (and this is me interpreting things) when Foster, Big Ben and Tomlin all spoke Tuesday the takeaway that I had was streamlined and universal from all three: People within that locker room understood Bell's point through the preseason and missing St. Vincent. They understood the business side of it needed to reign supreme and could fully get why he wasn't in Latrobe. Simply put, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. 

But when Bell wasn't there on the South Side on Monday, it felt like exasperation. It felt like it turned from a business decision to a personal one. Foster even said as much when he spoke about the offensive talent the Steelers have cobbled together. There is no question it is among the finest collection in the National Football League, with Bell being an enormous part. Everyone, as some level on that offense, has been made to sacrifice for the betterment of the team. To have the fully enhanced value the offense can have, each member has bought in and understood together they have an opportunity to achieve much more than any one individual could ever accomplish. 

Well, everyone except for Bell. The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't holding Le'Veon Bell hostage or forcing him into meager wages --- they twice made him offers that were more than competitive and outstandingly lucrative. Bell turned both down for individual reasons, not because it had anything to do with the team. He feels he's worth more. That might or might not be true. But I will guarantee one thing: If Le'Veon Bell goes somewhere else and makes more than what his offer was this past offseason with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he won't have anywhere near the team success he had in Pittsburgh. 

That isn't a guess. That's a guarantee. He will get his yards and carries and all, but the team he plays for will suck. Got it? Because that's what will happen.  

And that's why I think it's really starting to feel personal for guys like Foster and Roethlisberger as it pertains to Bell. Right now, the vibe guys like that are putting off is Bell would almost rather realize more individual success and have the chance to make just a touch more money than have a true opportunity to win a championship and maybe not max out cash-wise. 

That's when it becomes personal. That's when teammates know you are all about you. That's when things seemingly can never get fixed.