The Steelers finally hosted a free agent Friday, but fans shouldn’t get too excited about Bills left tackle Demetrius Bell.
That is nothing against Bell, who has played well –- or at least well enough -– when he has been healthy enough to get on the field. It’s just that signing him probably isn’t realistic.
It is not considered an exceptional year for offensive tackles in free agency or the draft. That increases the value of a player like Bell, who has been been injury prone but is only 27 with plenty of upside.
Demand for Bell only increased Friday when the Eagles announced that Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters ruptured his Achilles tendon, an injury that figures to sideline him for at least the first half of the 2012 season.
Bell, according to multiple reports out of Philadelphia, will visit the Eagles this weekend.
One thing the Steelers have going for them if they are indeed serious about signing Bell: Sean Kugler coached the fourth-year veteran for two seasons in Buffalo. The Steelers’ offensive linemen love playing for Kugler, and it’s logical to assume that Bell has similar feelings.
Of course money probably trumps all, and the Steelers are limited as to what they can do there. There is also a question of what the Steelers can offer Bell as far as opportunity.
The Steelers are moving Marcus Gilbrt to left tackle, which they see as his more natural position, and Willie Colon returns at right tackle. The X-factor with Colon is he has played one game since 2009 because of injuries. Plus Steelers never completely squelch talk of Colon moving to guard.
A surplus at offensive tackle would be a nice problem for coach Mike Tomlin to have. But it’s hard to imagine Bell giving the Steelers the kind of break Jerricho Cotchery did last year when he signed for the veteran’s minimum despite having more lucrative offers from several other teams.
Bell, a seventh-round pick in 2008, is in a position to cash in, and this may be his best chance at a big payday. That makes him a longshot, at best, to sign with the Steelers.
– Scott Brown