Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is on the trade block, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Bell, who has not yet signed his franchise-tag tender nor reported to the team, has missed the first three weeks of the season and forfeited more than $800,000 per game in one of the more complicated holdouts in recent memory. Now the team is set to part with Bell. If Pittsburgh really does trade its star running back, here are five teams that could make for good partners:
New England Patriots
Even after adding Josh Gordon, the Patriots have the thinnest wide receiving corps in football. The Pats have tried to compensate for their lack of depth at receiver by employing pass-catching running backs James White, Rex Burkhead, and Sony Michel. But adding Bell would give the team a true offensive weapon that would help on the ground and through the air. Plus: After adding James Harrison for their playoff run last year, New England has made it clear that they have no problem adding high-profile Steelers to the roster.
San Francisco 49ers
Matt Breida led the NFL in rushing through two weeks, but he is no Bell. Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have shown they still value the running back position: They signed Jerick McKinnon to a four-year deal with $18 million guaranteed in March. Bell’s multi-tool skill set would dovetail excellently in a Shanahan offense that values deception and versatility.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers haven’t had a strong running attack in years. Green Bay’s running backs this year are Jamaal Williams, a strong blocker and a decent rusher, Aaron Jones, a strong runner and a decent blocker, and Ty Montgomery, a converted wide receiver who isn’t getting a lot of playing time. Bell would be a vast improvement over all three. In addition to his playmaking potential, he’s an excellent blocker who can protect Rodgers and his mysterious knee injury, while also serving as Green Bay’s dump-off specialist when Rodgers is under pressure.
In spite of their terrible offensive line, the Texans have had surprising success on the ground with Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue. But Bell would be a huge upgrade for the offense. Quarterback Deshaun Watson has taken a beating through two weeks after an already-thin line lost tackle Seantrel Henderson, who broke his ankle in Week 1. Bell would provide the crucial safety valve Watson lacks without a reliable receiving option at running back (Watson has targeted Texans running backs just five times through two games, bucking a league-wide trend), and he’d certainly be an improvement in the run game over Miller and Blue.
The Colts have been competent under new head coach Frank Reich. And with Andrew Luck back under center, Indianapolis has a real chance of winning the weak AFC South, but their running back group is clogged with non-factors Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines, and Robert Turbin. All of them are in the mix for playing time, and none of them are difference-makers. Adding Bell would give Indy a bona fide playmaker alongside T.Y. Hilton and would be the best running back the team has had since Edgerrin James.