Le'Veon Bell's relationship with the Steelers frayed following the 2017 NFL season as the veteran tailback sought an increased salary. The discord led to Bell holding out for the entire 2018 season, and culminated with Bell choosing to sign with the New York Jets in the offseason.
In addition to Bell's contract dispute, the leadership style of Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger apparently played a role in Bell's choice to move on.
Bell told Sports Illustrated's Jenny Vrentas that Roethlisberger's presence wasn't the only factor in his decision, but admitted, "yes, it was a factor."
Here's an excerpt from Vrentas's story, acknowledging Bell's displeasure:
According to Bell, he and Roethlisberger didn’t quite vibe; Bell wishes they’d shared a “more open, more genuine, more real” relationship. He says players didn’t feel like they were treated by the QB as being on the same level as him. “Quarterbacks are leaders; it is what it is,” Bell says. But “you’re still a teammate at the end of the day. You’re not Kevin Colbert. You’re not [team president Art] Rooney.” (On the subject of quarterbacks in general, Bell says that, given the chance to do everything over, “I’d be playing QB.” Or, he says, in the NBA, where contracts are fully guaranteed and players are compensated by production, not position.)
Despite his output in 2017, when he was named an All-Pro for the second time, Bell says he didn’t feel like the Steelers’ game plans were designed to feature him or that he had a stake in what plays were being called. At the same time, he says, Roethlisberger’s personal preferences played a role in who was given the opportunity to make plays.
Says Bell, “The organization wants to win. Tomlin wants to win. Ben wants to win—but Ben wants to win his way, and that’s tough to play with. Ben won a Super Bowl, but he won when he was younger. Now he’s at this stage where he tries to control everything, and [the team] let him get there.”
Bell also confirmed to Vrentas that Roethlisberger texted Bell and mentioned that he hoped the tailback would return to the team last season, but he didn't respond.
This offseason, Bell agreed to a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the Jets. He will receive $35 million in guarantees.