Le’Veon Bell chimed in on Deebo Samuel reportedly wanting a trade due to his workload in San Francisco, but Bell’s tweets could also be seen as a shot to his former employer, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Samuel is coming off a historic season in which he became just the third player in the NFL history to finish a season with at least 1,000 receiving yards along with at least five receiving touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns. His 1,770 total yards form scrimmage was 28% of the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive total, the fourth-highest percentage by any player in the NFL.
While Samuel’s talent obviously deserves most of the credit, a significant reason for those numbers is the fact that the 49ers used him heavily as both a wide receiver and a running back. He lined up in the backfield for 21% of the 49ers snaps in the postseason last year, despite reportedly wanting to focus on being a wide receiver.
In response to all of this, Bell said on Twitter, “If Debo doesn’t play this year, 1 thing the 49ers gon make sure of is to feed someone else the ball & make it seem as if they didn’t need Debo…when in reality, we all know the truth…but if Debo doesn’t play, they’ll try and make it seem like the “back up” is just as good …”
Bell is essentially speaking from experience on this one. While being primarily a running back instead of a wide receiver, Bell knows first-hand what such a large workload can do for a player. While with the Steelers, Bell was used significantly in both the running game and passing game. He led the NFL in touches in 2017 with 406. He led the NFL with 321 carries that season and also had 106 targets in the passing game. He also had seasons of 336 (2016) and 373 (2014) touches while in Pittsburgh.
He then sat out in 2018 while the Steelers replaced him with a backup that they tried to make seem was just as good in James Conner. And while Conner replaced Bell well in 2018, en route to the former’s first-ever Pro Bowl appearance, the run game for the Steelers fell apart in 2019 and still has yet to be anywhere near the levels it was at while Bell was with the Steelers.
Bell followed his original tweet with “lol just watch” and later added “Debo is basically getting punished for doin too much & helping the team win Debo just need to stay outta the backfield…” Which, again, he probably feels he is speaking as much about himself as he is about Samuel. Bell also responded to a question posed by KDKA’s Bob Pompeani on Twitter that if he had to do his entire career all over again, what would he change. Bell said he’d play wide receiver.