PITTSBURGH — Le’Veon Bell is missing more than the season.
In a fitting end to a bizarre holdout story, several Pittsburgh Steelers players rummaged through Bell’s locker and removed his No. 26 nameplate after Wednesday’s practice.
Bell forfeited the season and his $14.5 million franchise tag by failing to report to team headquarters on Tuesday. He left behind a locker full of stuff, including cleats, shirts and a CD labeled ‘Le’Veon Bell #1.”
Linebacker Bud Dupree scored two pairs of Jordan cleats and thanked Bell. The move seemed more playful than malicious.
“Appreciate the cleats, my guy,” Dupree said into a camera. “I wish you success, my guy.”
Bell’s locker had stayed intact through his holdout.
Players answered Bell-related questions for what they hope is the last time. Defensive end Cam Heyward said the most disappointing part of the Bell holdout is “that we even talk about it.”
“It sucks when a guy doesn’t have to answer his own questions,” Heyward said. “If they aren’t on the team, I’m not worried about it.
“… Just get back to football. That’s all we can do. Wish him the best. This train doesn’t stop for anybody.”
Guard Ramon Foster, the team’s NFL Players Association rep, took a businesslike approach to Bell’s absence.
“Save your money, get a lot of information on what we’re trying to do moving forward and that way stuff like this doesn’t happen,” Foster said in a message directed at players. “We fall short on things because guys get selfish or guys say, ‘Hey, yeah, we’re going to take a deal.’
“We’ve got to inform ourselves this next time around so this type of stuff doesn’t happen. I hate it. [The franchise tag] could be good for both sides because you’re one of the highest paid at your position. But they retain your rights so you don’t hit the open market.”