Le’Veon Bell hints at retirement, suggests he’d like ‘a time machine’ to handle 2018 divorce from Steelers differently

A day after saying he’d be staying away from football this year to concentrate on boxing, former Steeler Le’Veon Bell now sounds like a player who is on the cusp of retirement.

He also sounds like a man with a lot of regrets.

In a long Instagram post Wednesday, Bell used every conceivable word but “retire” to describe his looming career change. For now, that appears to be taking up boxing full-time. Perhaps beyond just the celebrity match he is poised to have against fellow NFL running back Adrian Peterson. It’s coming up at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on July 30.

“I’m excited for this next chapter of my life, my journey to be the BEST at what I do … The NFL has done great things for me, & I truly appreciated every single year of my NFL journey,” Bell wrote. “I’ve managed to embrace ALL of it, and use it as motivation to prove TO MYSELF I’m gonna be the BEST as I shift my focus solely to my new sport, boxing! I’ve been blessed & fortunate enough to make a lot of money playin the game of football, & I couldn’t be more thankful for being able to provide for my family & close ones & form relationships with other coaches & other great athletes all across the league … It’s not about the money for me, it’s about proving to MYSELF & showing the world that I’m not done yet.”

Maybe it’s just a paperwork matter for Bell, or maybe he’s not ruling out one last team taking a chance on him. Regardless, he managed to say goodbye, without officially saying “I’m retired.” Based on that tone, though, I imagine that formality is coming soon.

Most interesting for Steelers fans, however, was another nugget from that post by Bell. He expressed regret that he couldn’t go back to 2018 in “a time machine.” That was the year Bell sat out from NFL competition amid a franchise-tag contract stalemate with the Steelers.

After missing that full season, Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract with the New York Jets. However, he ended up playing only 17 games for New York and rushed for just 863 yards as he was released during the 2020 season.

From there, he became an NFL vagabond, listlessly bouncing between excellent franchises such as Baltimore, Kansas City and Tampa Bay, but having little impact.

Much like “retirement,” Bell also doesn’t use the word “Pittsburgh” in his Instagram post. But it’s pretty clear that if he had it to do all over again, Bell never would have left.

Or, at the very least, he would have played on the franchise tag again for a second straight year and then would have made a decision about staying or leaving based on his performance — and the subsequent bids — that offseason.

“I (we, whoever) wish things would’ve played out differently in 2018, like if I legit had a time machine to go back to 2018, that would be soo litttt for soo many reasons but I don’t … all I can do, all WE can do is keep moving forward with life,” Bell said.

Sadly, Bell only moved forward 3.3 yards at a time after leaving Pittsburgh. Now it appears Bell would like a do-over on that decision.

So would the Steelers, I’m sure. Seeing how things went for Bell, if former Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert got in that time machine, he probably never would’ve even offered Bell the contract he turned down to get to the franchise tag in the first place.

That was a $70 million offer, with $33 million guaranteed in the first two years and a value of $45 million over the first three years. Bell saved the Steelers a contract albatross by simply being too stubborn, arrogant and shortsighted to sign a better deal.

On the other hand, maybe Bell would’ve continued to thrive here if he stayed. Maybe he never takes a year off in his prime to jet ski around Florida and get rusty and out of shape. Maybe he never gets so social media obsessed and never prioritizes a rap career over carrying the football.

Which is what he did best.

Then again, maybe he accepts the Steelers big offer, gets fat and happy with the money, and flames out in Pittsburgh Black and Gold instead of New York Green and White, and today he’s still taking on boxing matches to make ends meet.

Either way, I’d love to get in that time machine with Bell to find out.

Psst, Le’V, let’s leave a little room for Antonio Brown. He may want to join us on the trip.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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