Le’Veon Bell became an NFL superstar with the Pittsburgh Steelers. So he knows what to expect from the diehard fan base that travels well.
The New York Jets will host the Steelers at MetLife Stadium on Sunday in the penultimate game of the regular season and Bell, who is playing his former team for the first time since his ugly season-long holdout last season, is expecting a mixed reaction.
"It'll probably be 50-50," Bell said Thursday, via ESPN’s Rich Cimini. "I think half will be happy to see me and still love me, and half that hates me, despises me. It is what it is. I'm going to show love, regardless. Anybody who's wearing my jersey, I'll go sign it. It's going to be fun."
Bell was a 2013 draft pick of the Steelers and amassed 5,336 rushing yards and 2,660 receiving yards in five years there. His 129 scrimmage yards per game was a league-best over the half-decade.
Along with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (out for the season with an elbow injury), kicker Chris Boswell and Antonio Brown (who has a far messier relationship with the franchise and the NFL in general), they were the franchise’s beloved “Killer B’s.”
But the breakup first began when the Steelers attempted to put the franchise tag on Bell again in 2018. He held out and signed with the Jets in free agency. In green and white, he’s yet to break 100 yards in a game and is averaging per-game career lows of 4.1 yards per touch, 3.3 yards per rush and 52 rushing yards per game. He went bowling while absent from the Week 14 game with the flu.
Will Steelers teammates support those boos? It doesn’t seem likely.
"I'm telling you, we love Le'Veon," Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said Wednesday, via ESPN. "At the end of the day, the outside world can think whatever they want, but everyone in this locker room loves and respects him. At the end of the day, hell, if he was still here, we'll be riding with him."
Head coach Mike Tomlin complimented Bell’s talent and said the Steelers “respect” it, but said he has no relationship with the former star. Pittsburgh (8-6) needs to win out to make the playoffs. The Jets (5-9) have been out of the running for weeks.
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