Sports Columnist

John Steigerwald has been a fixture of TV, radio, and newspaper sports in Pittsburgh, and has a Sunday column in the Observer-Reporter.

So, are you tired of Le’Veon Bell?

Do you want him out or are you hoping the Steelers pay him enough to show up and play? The Steelers, as expected, put the franchise tag on Bell Tuesday, which means he could agree to play next season for $14.5 million, or $906,000 per game. Based on his number of touches last season, it would mean that Bell would get about $30,000 every time he touches the football.

The $14.5 million would be about twice as much as any other running back in the league and be a huge salary cap hit.

If you would like to see the Steelers tell Bell to take a hike because you don’t believe any running back is worth taking up that much of the payroll, that’s a reasonable position to take. But what if you are among what appears to be a large group of fans who want to see Bell go because of what you perceive as his immaturity?

You know, the suspension for pot.

His obsession with showing the world that he’s really bad at rapping.

Showing up late for a pregame walkthrough and showing up late for a playoff game the next day.

The tweets.

Bell obviously has some growing up to do, but when it comes to losing patience with a really good player because of immaturity, I have two words for you:

Ben Roethlisberger.

Remember Milledgeville, Georgia?

A 20-year old college kid credibly accused Roethlisberger of raping her in a bar bathroom back in March of 2010.

The district attorney said he believed the accuser but didn’t have enough evidence to prove it. For what it’s worth, I believed her, too.

Roethlisberger was 28.

Bell turned 26 three weeks ago.

In my 40 years of covering Pittsburgh sports, no athlete came close to the number of unsolicited “Why is he such a jerk?” questions that I received about Roethlisberger. Only the word they used wasn’t jerk.

Sports Illustrated came to town after the Milledgeville incident and apparently talked to a lot of the people who had asked me those questions because it produced a very unflattering piece about him. One that portrayed him as an immature jerk.

The NFL suspended him for six games and reduced it to four. I said, at the time, that the Steelers should release him. They’re probably happy they didn’t. Not only because they’ve won a lot of games since then, including a Super Bowl, but because Roethlisberger appears to have grown up.

I would have released him even if I knew he was going to lead my team to two Super Bowls and win one of them.

So, if you’re hoping the Steelers tell Bell to take a hike because of the way he’s been acting, and you didn’t react the same way when Roethlisberger was exposed as a much bigger jerk, accused of a much more serious offense, then you might need to ask yourself why.

  • Geno Malkin is the hottest player in the NHL. He’s been putting up Mario Lemieux-like numbers since January and has emerged as a serious Hart Trophy (MVP) candidate. I have a question for you: If the Penguins were to tell their opponents that, to make things fair, they can choose either Malkin or Sidney Crosby to be scratched. Which one will play and which one will sit? I say Crosby sits. I base that on the fact that it’s Crosby who continues to see the Penguins’ opponents’ best defenders.
  • The Cleveland Browns are not going to go winless next year. Just in the last few days they’ve made trades for a competent quarterback and one of the better wide receivers in the league. The quarterback is Tyrod Taylor, who might be a little underrated after being stuck in Buffalo for several years. He rarely turns the ball over, is a good runner and likes to throw deep. The Bills get the first pick in the third round of the draft. Stockpiling draft picks paid off for the Browns. All it took was a fourth and a seventh to get Jarvis Landry, a slot receiver with 400 receptions in his first four years with the Miami Dolphins, who put a $19.2 million franchise tag on him last week.

They had little or no chance of signing any top free agents.

It looks like the Browns are going to take Penn State running back Shaquon Barkley with the first pick in the draft. He should be one of the best backs in the league next year and he will make Taylor more dangerous as a runner.

The Browns also have the fourth pick in the draft, which they could use on a quarterback, who could be their starter as soon as next season.

Steelers games are more fun when the Browns are good. They might not be good yet but there’s a really good chance that they’re not terrible.

And by the this time next year, Cleveland might not be NFL Siberia anymore. Players might look at the Browns and see something happening that they’d like to be a part of.

Or not.

I mean, come on, it’s the Browns.

John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.

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