2017 South Side Questions: Will Bell Toll For Steelers In 2018, And Will It Be Under Tag?

The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments for as long as they push on through the postseason, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Will Le’Veon Bell play the 2018 season with the Steelers, and if so, will it be under a franchise tag?

I realize a lot of comments in response to this article will point out that this is a question for the offseason and they don’t want to discuss it now. These people will just have to move on to another article. Things like this are far more of a ‘distraction’ to fans than to the team. They all already knew this.

There are a number of different ways that things can play out in the offseason with Le’Veon Bell, and each outcome has a number of proponents who are highly confident that that is definitely, absolutely the way that it will happen.

Bell, entering his sixth season in 2018 after playing the current campaign under a franchise tag valued just north of $12 million, appears fully intent on making the bank that he has been singing about for a year or two now. Personally, I can’t blame him. it’s his job and his life. He’s not obligated to love the Steelers so much he’ll play for less. I’d like it if he would, but I can’t expect it of him, and my reasons for feeling that way are purely selfish.

Because of his tag value in 2017, Bell’s tag value will be around $15 million in 2018. That is a hefty sum, and one I’m not absolutely certain the Steelers will be willing to play. If it means keeping a championship window intact, they may, but I don’t think this is a shoe-in.

A long-term deal seems even more unlikely, especially given that they already tried to come to an agreement into the 11th hour last summer and failed to do so. I’m not sure what will have changed between now and then to raise the confidence in getting it done. Bell had an All-Pro campaign and their salary cap situation already necessitates cuts or restructures to fit his hypothetical new deal in.

The alternative to a franchise tag or a new deal is simply to walk away from the relationship, which is an option I believe is solidly in play. And that could come after a franchise tag is enacted. The Panthers rescinded Josh Norman’s tag just a couple of years ago.

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