Former Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell made a huge announcement on his Snapchat story Friday night, vowing an attempt to return to the NFL. While 31 years old (and turning 32 later this month) and not playing a down of football since the 2021 season, Bell believes his body is healthier than ever, feeling better than it did when he was 20. And he strongly hinted the only team he’d come back and play for are the Steelers.
On a series of long Snapchat stories, Bell covered a variety of topics. He began by revealing doctors told him he had arthritis when he was 20. But he denied arthritis is a real issue and pointed to football rushing players back from injuries too soon as the reason for long-term ailments. He believes his bodies compensate for injuries, masking the pain while playing through it.
Bell shared the story of spraining his foot in his first preseason game. Doctors told him he’d miss 6-8 weeks and he returned for Week 4 of the 2013 season, impressing with a two-touchdown performance in a London loss to the Minnesota Vikings. But Bell said he shouldn’t have been cleared that soon, stating he should’ve missed “15 weeks” in order to let his foot completely heal.
With proper recovery and dedicated stretching, Bell believes it’s possible to avoid constant pain older football players tend to experience. He said he was the only person who knows to have “cured” his arthritis, also citing a wrist injury that’s much better now than before.
Bell last played in 2021 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, logging 23 snaps in the regular season finale against the Carolina Panthers. Since, he embarked on a boxing career, having his moments in the ring, but it appears he wants to give football another try. He’s teased returns in the pass and made it clear in previous comments he’d only play for the Steelers, the team who drafted him. He said the only way he can prove his health and beliefs over injuries is to return to football.
In Friday’s Snap Stories, Le’Veon Bell said he won’t start training again until March. He’ll test his body to see if it hurts to make football moves, to run and cut, and determine if he can play again. But throughout the story, he said his body feels far better than it did a decade ago.
He said he’ll make an official NFL decision come April and if he returns to the league, he only wants to sign with one team.
“I won’t start training until like March. March-ish,” Bell said. “And I’m gonna be honest with myself. I gotta go out there and be like, I’m gonna put my foot in the ground. Do I feel it? Am I hurting? Can I go out there and really play again? And bro, I’m telling y’all right now when I go out there and train in March and if I hit April and I make the decision to come back to play in the NFL again, mark my words down. I will be better than I ever was. Ever. And I will only come back for that one team. Y’all know who it is. I don’t gotta say no team. Y’all know who it is.”
He adds he has not run a full sprint in about one year but that his body feels good enough to test his football shape. Here’s the key portion of his story, announcing his football plans.
Speaking to the AP’s Rob Maadi in July of 2023, Le’Veon Bell said he’d only play football for Mike Tomlin.
“Honestly, I really only want to play with the Steelers. That’s it,” he said at the time. “Unless I’m starting somewhere else, which I know that chance is very slim, like less than one percent, unless I’m starting, I’ll come back to the Steelers, that’s it”.
Appearing on the Steel Here podcast last May, Bell teased playing in one preseason game for Pittsburgh while expressing a desire to retire a Steeler. His best years came with the team before sitting out the 2018 season due a contract dispute and cashing in with the New York Jets in 2019 on a deal worth more than $50 million. But his career derailed after leaving Pittsburgh, lasing just 1.5 years with the Jets before being released mid-way through the 2020 season. He then spent time with the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, and Buccaneers. As a Steeler, Bell made three Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams.
It’s not clear if Pittsburgh would have any interest in a reunion. Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren are firmly established as the Steelers’ top two backs and Bell would not pass up either for playing time. But the team has an opening for its third-string running back, though that position usually plays on special teams.
Bell visited the Steelers’ facility in December during one of the team’s practices. In video he shared at the time, he expressed regret for leaving Pittsburgh originally, an idea he’s shared several times in his post-playing days.
Throughout the video, Le’Veon Bell referenced the 2016-2017 AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. Exiting early due to an ongoing groin injury, he cited it as another example of pushing his body past its limit, bowing out on what appeared to be a routine tackle.
“When I got hurt in 2017 when we played the Patriots in the AFC championship game, bro, nothing happened. When I got hurt, nothing happened. It’s like nothing. There was no crazy twist or turn tackle that got me hurt. It was a normal tackle. It was dude just ran up and just tackled me. It was the most basic tackle ever. And that was the hit where it was like my body was like, ‘yeah, we can’t do this no more.’”
Le’Veon Bell ended his series of videos by saying don’t be surprised if he’s a far better player in 2024 than he was during the prime of his career. Which, at his peak, he was one of football’s best running backs.
“When November of 2024 come back and I’m snapping and back to snapping…don’t be shocked. Do not be shocked. I’m telling you right now.”
We’ll update this post with other snippets from Bell’s story. Here’s one section where he says he no longer has arthritis after being diagnosed and battling pain throughout his early 20s.
In one of his first stories of the day, hours before making his announcement, he responded to one user that “I already changed the game once, I plan to do it again.”