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Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) runs the ball in the second half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

Gary Landers/Associated Press

Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said on Thursday his research suggests the Pittsburgh Steelers might be better without superstar running back Le’Veon Bell. 

Jamison Hensley of ESPN provided comments from Martindale about Bell’s continued holdout ahead of the Week 9 AFC North rivalry clash between the teams on Sunday.

“There are a lot of stats [since 2015] that the Steelers are actually better without him,” he said. “That might be why he’s riding a jet ski down in Miami right now.”

The NFL on CBS showcased numbers that backed up Martindale’s sentiment:

Bell posts terrific individual numbers when available. He tallied 1,946 yards from scrimmage with 11 touchdowns during the 2017 season. He’s racked up 7,996 total yards and 42 scores in five seasons since the Steelers selected him in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft out of Michigan State.

The 26-year-old Ohio native also led the NFL with 406 touches last season, though. Pittsburgh’s offense has found success by spreading the ball around in his absence, ranking fourth in total offense during the team’s 4-2-1 start to the 2018 campaign.

James Conner, who’s replaced Bell as the Steelers’ starting rusher, has shined by running for 599 yards on 127 carries (4.7 YPA) with nine touchdowns and catching 31 passes for 323 yards.

So when Martindale was asked about whether he was concerned about a potential late appearance from Bell in the Pittsburgh lineup, he provided a joking response.

“What if Terry Bradshaw wants to come back and Lynn Swann? Oh [s—],” he said, per Hensley.

Bell, who’s yet to sign the one-year contract tender associated with the franchise tag, has until Nov. 13 to sign the deal or he becomes ineligible to play during the 2018 season.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin had no update when asked about three-time Pro Bowl selection’s status on Tuesday:

Pittsburgh has two more games before the franchise tender deadline—Sunday’s meeting with the Ravens and a game next Thursday against the Carolina Panthers.

Barring an injury to Conner, the Steelers have shown their offense can succeed even if Bell opts to sit out for the entire season in search of a long-term contract.

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