Gary Landers/Associated Press
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:
Interesting numbers here. With and without Bell since 2015. #Steelers https://t.co/YSK96FRHBK
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.
Aditi Kinkhabwala @AKinkhabwala
Run through all the best @NFL RBs in your head. Then guess who has forced the most missed tackles this year.
That’s right: James Conner. He’s forced 26 missed tackles on rushes, 20 on catches. That’s a missed tackle on 28.9% of his touches, the highest of 54 RBs w/ 50 touches.
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:
Matt Freed @mattfreedpghpg
A good ending to Mike Tomlin’s weekly press conference when asked about Le’Veon Bell’s return to the team. @PGSportsNow @PGSportsNow @PGVisuals https://t.co/zRA6zzHQ9m
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.