For well over one full year now the Pittsburgh Steelers organization has said all of the right things when it comes to running back Le’Veon Bell and their intentions of having him signed to a long-term contract that will hopefully allow him to end his career right where it started. From Steelers team president Art Rooney II to general manager Kevin Colbert to head coach Mike Tomlin, all three have stated how they want Bell to remain in Pittsburgh for several more years. With that said, there are currently no signs that Bell and the Steelers will reach a long-term contract agreement by this year’s July 16 deadline and if that’s ultimately the case, Bell will more than likely play in a different NFL city in 2019 and beyond.
Several weeks ago, Bell made it clear that if there is no long-term deal before training camp starts, he will skip it and the preseason just as he did last season. During a recent sit-down interview with Judy Battista of the NFL Network at this year’s annual league meetings in Orlando, Tomlin was asked how important is it to him to have Bell there for training camp this year at the very least.
“Unless he says that to me directly, or we’re dealing with that directly, it’s a waste of my time to get into the hypothetical,” Tomlin told Battista. “He’ll have a training camp date like all his other teammates. There’ll be an expectation in terms of him being present and accounted for and us all starting this journey together. You know, he and I had a good conversation the other day. He’s going down to Miami to start his training, the process that he normally goes through. I expect him to be in great shape and be ready to go.”
Tomlin was then asked if it even really matters for a veteran player such as Bell to be present for training camp.
“Certainly it does,” Tomlin said. “You know, it’s not just about his growth and development as a player, it’s about his positioning within the group and how he aids the process for the others. How he teaches others by simply just watching him go through daily routines and things that are associated with his position. It is a teach-tool for young players and I think oftentimes things like that aren’t talked about enough.
“Forget the presence of people in this time of year in terms of what it does for them, a lot of those guys are veteran players and it’s a retooling, if you will. But it’s a first time for a bunch of young guys and to have that template, to have that visual representation of what your work day looks like, and to do it alongside a guy that knows what he’s doing is invaluable for a young player. So consequently, it’s invaluable for us collectively.”
More than anything else when it comes to Bell, Tomlin again wanted to reemphasize to Battista that he wants the All-Pro running back in Pittsburgh long-term.
“I do and I think we all do,” Tomlin said. “I think we’ve been pretty consistent in that messaging, but it’s yet to produce a long-term deal. But he is with us and obviously he’s a valued member of our group and we’re excited that he’s with us.”