Bell and Brown – are these two a “Steel”?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are up there as one of the most stable and successful franchises in the NFL. They have 6 Super Bowl rings (now tied for first), and have won the AFC North in 3 of the last 5 seasons. They have not had a losing record since finishing 6-10 in 2003. However, it is clear that currently all is not well in Pittsburgh and that this offseason may be the most crucial in recent times.
The fallouts between Antonio Brown and the club, and LeVeon Bell and the club, are well documented and the assumption must be that neither will be on the Steelers roster for very much longer. How can the Steelers maximise their value during potential trades, how do the two high-profile offensive stars find the right moves and how does everyone live happily ever after? Let’s see how this could pan out.

Antonio Brown
You only have to glance at his stats to realise the guy is a stud at WR1. Well over 1000 yards receiving every year for the last 6 years and double figure TDs in 4 of those 6 seasons. He will be 31 by the start of next season so I would see him wanting to go to a team on the up. He’s also going to need to go somewhere with a top-tier QB (Big Ben being in part the reason for Brown’s stats – after all someone has to throw you the ball!). And he’s going to want to be regarded as WR1.

In terms of value the Steelers are going to want to angle for a 2nd round pick (high 3rd at worst) and you are going to need some cap space in order to secure Brown’s services. So who could be in the frame?

Taking those factors into account my suggestion would be the 49ers – they could offer the early 2nd round pick, have the $ and released Pierre Garcon (to make room?). If Kyle Shanahan could convince AB he is one of the last pieces in the puzzle then San Francisco could seal the deal. There may be doubts over Jimmy G coming back and the highly competitive NFC West.

The Raiders could also pitch up with an offer – maybe try to tempt Steelers with one of their late 1st round draft picks? I think anything is possible with the Raiders right now and that might tempt AB or he may prefer to pass on going to more drama and turmoil.
I’d love to see him up in Green Bay as “Rodgers to Brown” has a nice ring about it and the Packers need an injection of something on offense after a fairly insipid 2018. I’d include Denver but is Flacco a draw for AB – I doubt it. Final one, from left field, what about Seattle? They developed a great run-first offense last year but imagine another top class receiver at Russell Wilson’s disposal? That could work!

LeVeon Bell
Sat kicking his heels for the last year LeVeon Bell also looks to be heading out of Pittsburgh. Again his statistics suggest he can do a great job for another franchise. Three of the last 4 seasons he went over 1000 yards rushing. The Steelers are expected to position themselves in such a way to secure trade value for Bell (transition tag). So who could be in running for this quality back?

Here I think we are looking for a side trying to shore up their running game, possibly to take pressure of their airborne attack if they have become too predictable. There will, however, be some questions over Bell given his 12m absence from the game. At 26, Bell possibly may have more patience with a side’s development – but he will still command a fair sized contract.

For me, the Colts are the obvious choice. Developing (and stable) roster, successful 2018 season, and not a million miles of being a Super Bowl contender. Marlon Mack had a good year at RB in Indianapolis but it would be hard to argue that Bell would up the ante for the team’s running attack. However, Bell might not fit the mould Chris Ballard has been developing for the Colts.

He could go for a side where he takes some of the pressure and workload off a young QB – Bills (Allen), Jets (Darnold) or Browns (Mayfield) – where he could also share workload with exciting new RBs.

Similar to the Colts, Bell could be tempted by the Houston Texans where Bell could double-team with Lamar Millar. The cap space is there in Houston and they have exciting options on offense which should make them a contender again next season.
Left-field choice here? What about if the 49ers pitch in here to take heat off Jimmy G returning after injury? What about if the 49ers went for both Bell and Brown? Doubt it will happen but wouldn’t that be fun in San Francisco??

Whichever way this pans out I think the Steelers can make some real draft capital out of both trades – can certainly see an additional 2nd and 3rd out of this – and it will give them some more elbow room against the cap. Moreover it gives them the chance to reset on the culture in Pittsburgh and consign the drama to 2018. I expect the Steelers to go into 2019 stronger as a united team, even without Brown and Bell. My way too early prediction is that we see Pittsburgh back in the playoffs in 2019!

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