Is there logic to speculation about Le’Veon Bell going to Ravens? | TribLIVE.com
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Tim Benz
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell celebrates after scoring during the fourth quarter against the Ravens on Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016, at Heinz Field.

Mike Garofolo of the NFL Network is the latest football analyst to opine that Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell may go to the Baltimore Ravens.

This conversation was touched off when Bell publicly flirted with Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson on social media in the wake of a previous NFL Network report. It suggested that Baltimore would be a great landing spot if he finally does divorce from the Steelers.

The idea of Le’Veon Bell in Purple and Black is intriguing on many levels.

First of all, there’s the practical angle.

The Ravens were the second-best rushing team in football with the combination of Gus Edwards, Alex Collins, Javorius Allen and Kenneth Dixon.

Jackson’s 695 rushing yards from the quarterback position didn’t hurt, either.

So, on the surface, why would they need Bell on a big-ticket salary?

Well, consider that aside from Allen, none of the other backs were at all impactful in the passing game. That’s part of the reason Baltimore acquired Ty Montgomery from Green Bay last year. Yet he wound up with only 10 receptions for 65 yards.

That’s where Bell would really come into play. He could take some of Lamar Jackson’s short passes and turn them into long gains. Jackson could really use that safety net in his development. Ben Roethlisberger is five times as polished as Jackson, and look at how much Bell helped Big Ben over the years.

Also, offensive coordinator Greg Roman has worked with top-of-the-line runners such as Frank Gore and LeSean McCoy in the past.

Secondly — beyond X’s-and-O’s — the Ravens could enjoy the glorious intangible of putting the screws to the Steelers, along with never having to face Bell again.

No team has allowed more yards rushing, receptions or touchdowns to Bell than the Ravens have. Now he could be one of their own, going up against the Steelers’ weak defense twice a year in divisional play.

Imagine the Steelers stealing Jamal Lewis in the prime of his career. This would be the rough equivalent.

After the trade of Joe Flacco becomes official, the Ravens will have $32 million of cap space. Spending big in free agency wasn’t Baltimore’s style under former general manager Ozzie Newsome for many years.

They’ve gotten more aggressive in recent seasons. But now Eric DeCosta has taken over for Newsome and, in his words, spending in free agency can be a “dicey proposition.”

It’s unlikely the Steelers would trade Bell to the Ravens because of the rivalry aspect. For him to wind up in Maryland, Kevin Colbert would have to cut him loose or fail to match a Baltimore offer on a transition or franchise tag.

The prospect exists that, on the transition tag, the Ravens could make an offer to Bell and force the Steelers to match a ludicrous contract. That would pinch their rivals in terms of the cap. But the Birds also would need to be ready to absorb the hit if the Steelers weren’t willing to match.

It is funny, isn’t it? Steelers fans have spent a lot of the past year rationalizing a potential departure of Bell by saying that he is fading as a running back. He’s not a home run hitter. He’s a volume stat-box stuffer. James Conner is just as good. Running back is important, but the running back himself doesn’t really matter.

That’s all well and good when the option of Bell leaving means he winds up with the Lions or Texans, right?

But seeing him twice a year in the AFC North? Bell doesn’t stink so much anymore, does he?

Don’t worry, Pittsburgh. It probably won’t happen.

On the plus side, if it did, it’d make it all the easier to hate Bell even more going out the door. Less internal conflict n’at.

As if we would need the help.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter @TimBenzPGH. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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