Report: Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell both expected to play in Super Bowl after missing championship games

Either Le’Veon Bell or Antonio Brown will secure a Super Bowl ring next Sunday.

It sounds like both of them will play in the big game as well.

According to ESPN’s Dianna Russini, the Kansas City Chiefs running back and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver are both expected to be healthy for the Feb. 7 game after they missed their respective conference championship games with injuries.

That means the famously disgruntled former Pittsburgh Steelers stars will now face off for football’s biggest prize. It marks a height neither managed to reach as members of one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses in Pittsburgh.

Kansas City Chiefs Le'Veon Bell carries the ball during an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Le'Veon Bell got his payday and is playing in the Super Bowl -- even if his star is diminished. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

How they got here

They’ve each taken circuitous paths to reach this point after forcing their Pittsburgh exits. Bell gave up a full season of his NFL career to secure his free agency in 2019. He got his payday with the New York Jets, but lasted less than two seasons before he was released after Week 5. The Chiefs then signed him as support for first-round rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

He’s since played a limited role in Kansas City’s loaded offense, tallying 353 yards from scrimmage in nine regular-season games. He secured just two carries for six yards in Kansas City’s divisional round playoff win over the Cleveland Browns before missing Sunday’s AFC championship win over the Buffalo Bills with a knee injury.

Brown’s troubled route

Brown’s path to this point was — to put it mildly — more complicated. Here’s the short version. He made enough noise in Pittsburgh to prompt a trade to the Oakland Raiders prior to the 2019 season. He didn’t make it to Week 1 in Oakland before Jon Gruden grew weary of his antics and released him in training camp.

Antonio Brown #81 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers smiles after the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 26, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Antonio Brown's talent has overridden his off-field issues to allow to reach this point. (Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

The New England Patriots signed him in time to suit up for Week 2. He played one game with the Patriots before his former trainer accused him of rape in a civil lawsuit, prompting New England to release him. He didn’t play again in 2019. While away from football, Brown ran into more legal trouble, including more allegations of sexual misconduct and an arrest on battery and burglary charges involving the driver of a moving truck.

The NFL suspended him for the first eight games of the 2020 season for the latter charges. When he became eligible, he signed with the Buccaneers. His brief time in New England had paid off in the form of a relationship with Tom Brady.

His role on a loaded Bucs receiving corps grew as the season wore on. He finished the regular season with 45 catches for 483 yards and four touchdowns in eight games as a key cog in Tampa’s offense. He missed Sunday’s NFC championship win over the Green Bay Packers with a knee injury suffered in the divisional round against the New Orleans Saints.

Like Bell, he’s expected to suit up next Sunday. It will mark an unlikely meeting of the former superstar teammates on football’s biggest stage.

It’s not exactly a redemption story. But it’s certainly significant for both former Steelers stars.

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