If you thought the ill will between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals dissipated over the past few months, you thought wrong. As teams around the league hit the field for OTAs on Tuesday, Steelers star running back Le'Veon Bell made it known that he still hasn't wavered on his beliefs about the knee injury he suffered against the Bengals in the first of three 2015-2016 season matchups.
In speaking to the local media covering the practice session, Bell was clear about his belief that the Bengals, and linebacker Vontaze Burfict in particular, targeted him with the intent to injure.
Le'Veon Bell: "The whole (Bengals) team was really out there trying to like twist my ankles and do little dirty stuff in between the piles."— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) May 24, 2016
Le'Veon Bell said Burfict, Bengals, others try to take him out of games; used to think ppl just played football, not so naive now #steelers— Jacob Klinger (@Jacob_Klinger_) May 24, 2016
The history of Bell and the Bengals definitely has featured some controversial moments in the Pro Bowl running back's previous three seasons. Burfict tackled Bell on the sideline last year and the running back ended up missing the rest of the season with torn knee ligaments. This injury followed a knee sprain he suffered on a tackle made by Reggie Nelson in the 2014 season finale, forcing him to miss the Steelers' subsequent playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens--which Pittsburgh lost.
Bell did follow up the comments noting Burfict's reaching out to him this March to wish the running back well as he resumed his running regimen. Still, these comments are a bit unexpected, given Bell's friendship with Bengals including defensive end Carlos Dunlap, and the previous public forgiveness of Burfict and the hit that ended his season.
The complaints by Bell are also interesting, given the Steelers' extensive history of questionable hits and antics--particularly at the Bengals' expense. Whether you want to point at Hines Ward and Keith Rivers, Carson Palmer and Kimo von Oelhoffen, Mike Mitchell's apparent headhunting of A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, or Joey Porter's actions as a player (Levi Jones) and coach (see 2015 Wild Card game), it seems that these comments by Bell are a bit of the pot calling the kettle black.
Burfict will be serving a three-game suspension in 2016 and the league, in its infinite wisdom, decided to schedule the first clash between the clubs in Week 2 with Burfict on the sidelines. Time hasn't seemed to heal the emotional wounds suffered by both teams last season, so expect the rivalry to continue to be a heated one in 2016.
Though, at this point, it's time for Bell to give it a rest.