Six years ago, Le'Veon Bell was an All-Pro running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now 31, Bell is out of football and has lately been focusing on his career as a professional boxer. He said last fall that there was a "one-percent" chance that he would play football again after playing for four different teams during the previous two seasons.
Bell has apparently had a change of heart, however. He recently said that he wants one last chance to show what he can do on a football field before officially ended his pro career where it started a decade ago.
"The day when I do retire, it is going to be with Pittsburgh," Bell said on the "Steel Here" podcast, via Steelers Now. "Before I do that, I may be like, hey, let me get a couple of carries in the preseason so I can show y'all something."
Bell made it clear that he "never officially retired," but when he does Pittsburgh is the only place on his mind.
"With the Steelers, I would do the little preseason, like alright, boom boom, but I would not do that anywhere else," he said (via the Steel Here podcast). "Because I don't even think about playing, it literally would only be in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is where I'll retire, you know what I'm saying, that's just it. Because I already been other places. It's not Pittsburgh."
Last year, Bell said that he would return to play for a team that would give him a shot a winning a Super Bowl. He technically played for a Super Bowl in 2020 with the Chiefs, although he did not receive a snap during Kansas City's Super Bowl loss to the Buccaneers.
The Chiefs and Buccaneers were two of the teams Bell played for during the 2020 and '21 seasons. Bell, who did not play in the NFL last year, played in five games for the Ravens in 2021 and spent the entire 2019 season with the Jets after signing a four-year, $52.5 million contract with New York during the offseason. Bell received a little over half of that contract before he was released during the 2020 season.
A 2013 second-round pick out of Michigan State, Bell quickly established himself as a versatile playmaker in Pittsburgh. He earned his first All-Pro nod in 2014 while helping the Steelers return to the playoffs after a two-year hiatus. In 2016, after missing most of the 2015 season with a knee injury, Bell won team MVP honors for a second time after leading the Steelers to within a game of the Super Bowl. That season, Bell set franchise single-game, regular-season and postseason rushing records.
Le’Veon Bell’s single best performance of his career came against the #Bills when he totaled a career high 298 yards and 3 TDs.❄️— Brandon Carr (@bcarr_13) August 19, 2022
Nothing flashy, but Bell showed why he was one of the #NFL’s best workhorse running backs during that time.
🎥: @NFL#NFL | #Steelers | #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/NwbhZkLYhM
Bell held out during the 2017 training camp over a contract dispute. He was an All-Pro again that season as the Steelers finished with a 13-3 record. The Steelers were upset in the playoffs, however, marking the end of the "Killer B" era in Pittsburgh. Bell sat out the following season after he and the Steelers once again failed to come to terms on a long-term contract.
"Obviously, I wish things would've played out differently in 2018," Bell said on social media last fall. "Like if I legit had a time machine to go back to 2018, that would be soo litttt for soo many reasons but I [can't] … all I can do, all WE can do is keep moving forward with life… & life has taught me a lot of valuable lessons & formed me into the person I am today."
Bell says looking back, he could have acted differently and changed the ending of his story with the Steelers.
"Yeah, it was a little petty, the little guarantee stuff," Bell said. "I'm thinking like, damn, could I have really just ate it? Yeah, I probably could've. Probably could've really ate it."
Bell continued, saying, "We kept going back and forth. It literally was the guarantee. They weren't budging off of it and I wasn't budging off of it. I didn't want to leave Pittsburgh. At the end of the day, that's where I was at. That's where I got drafted at. Especially after going to different teams and seeing how it is, when a team has their guy, you're their guy. I was Pittsburgh's guy."
Will Bell get another shot? It appears to be far-fetched, given that it's been two years since he last played. It's not completely out of the question, however, since there are teams that could use depth at running back and may decide to give Bell a shot during the preseason. It helps that Bell has stayed in shape by picking up boxing.
The Steelers could be one of those teams. While they already have Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren, Pittsburgh could use depth behind them after not re-signing Benny Snell. Bell would have to accept a smaller role, however, than he had during his first go-around in Pittsburgh. Based on the situation, it seems that Bell would be willing to accept a smaller role if it meant getting one last shot with the team he once starred for.
As far as retiring as a Steeler, it seems highly likely that the team would be open to making that happen. Bell was one of the team's best players in the 2010s, after all, and was integral in three AFC North division title runs that included Pittsburgh's most recent AFC title game appearance.