In NFL gridiron play, on the field and off, the owners hold all the cards and the only position where a superstar stands a chance is that of quarterback.
Only a few of those, to boot.
Certain teams are more susceptible than others are, but quite possible the least are the Pittsburgh Steelers.
They have not only refused to blink at the prospect of losing Le’Veon Bell for the season, as the running back’s contract holdout has dragged out, they found a replacement in James Connor who is not simply filling in admirably, he is playing high calibre football for about 1/12th , or eight percent, of the fee Bell commanded.
The Rooney family, owners of the Steelers, has long known the reality of the NFL. For every star of Bell’s stature, there are 100 or more running backs who can do the same job just waiting in the wings.
The Rooney’s appreciate and show loyalty, too. They have had just three head coaches since 1969. San Francisco has had as many as three in a single season have.
Early on, it seemed as though Pittsburgh was simply waiting for Bell to capitulate and show up with a strategy of preserving Bell for the end of the season. The 16-game regular season extracts a toll on ball carriers and Bell has at times been missing during the playoffs when he was most needed.
James Connor may have Steelers supporters saying, “Le’Veon who?”
He is third in the league, with a 4.7 yard-per-carry average, trailing only the 5.0 of the LA Rams’ Todd Gurley and the Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott among running backs with over 150 carries.
Bell, meanwhile, is burning through money and good will.
His weekly salary is approximately $US 900,000, so by sitting out the first nine games of the season, his bank account is down by over $US 8 million.
Bell is learning an expensive lesson: Don’t mess with the Steelers.
NFL owners are a cohesive bunch and Bell might find that he has turned toxic just when it seemed as though he could command a salary of astronomical levels.