As expected, the Pittsburgh Steelers still haven’t signed running back Le’Veon Bell to a long-term contract extension since placing the franchise tag on him ahead of the start of the new league year. Even so, that doesn’t mean the team has given up on trying to get a deal done with the former second-round draft pick and general manage Kevin Colbert said as much on Sunday.
“At this point, after we tagged him, we moved into other matters of free agency and [attending] pro days,” Colbert said Sunday in Orlando, FL ahead of the annual league meetings, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We’re not choosing to ignore him, we have other circumstances to take care of at the moment. More urgent business needs to be taken care of.”
While some fans of the Steelers are hoping that the team will ultimately draft another running back in the early rounds this year and then proceed to rescind the $14.544 million franchise tag from Bell, Colbert let it be known on Sunday that’s very unlikely to happen.
“I would never remove anything from a possibility. Is it a probability? No,” Colbert said when asked if rescinding Bell’s franchise tag is an option for the team, per Dulac.
The Steelers have until July 16 to get Bell signed to a long-term contract and if unable to do so, the running back will more than likely sit out all of training camp and the preseason just as he did last year.
“Hopefully Le’Veon comes to training camp. Hopefully he’s a part of a winning team in 2018,” Colbert said, according to Jeremy Fowler of espn.com. “We’ll react to every situation as it presents itself. But we’ll never sit around and talk about what-ifs.”
Colbert really doesn’t sound overly concerned right now if Bell decides to not attend any of the Steelers offseason practices and that includes, OTAs and training camp.
“He’s not under contract [in that case], he doesn’t have to show up,” Colbert said. “He doesn’t sign the deal, then we’ll deal with it when it happens. There’s nothing to react to.”
Bell is presumably wanting a multi-year contract that will average $15 million or more per season. The Steelers have maintained for a few years now that their goal is to sign Bell long-term so that he can end his career in Pittsburgh.
“We’re still hopeful, Steve,” Colbert said to NFL Network‘s Steve Wyche on the possibility of getting a multi-year deal done with Bell before this year’s deadline. “When you make that decision, you’re obviously in negotiations prior to making the tag as we did, but once you make the tag, you move onto other business that’s more pertinent at this point, and that’s dealing with free agency and draft preparations. We still want to get through that period and then we’ll address it at the appropriate time, but our long-term goal has always to have Le’Veon be a Steeler for his career.”