A year ago, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell showed up at the team’s facility the day after the final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers took place. After taking a physical, Bell eventually signed his franchise tag that following Monday, September 4, and the Steelers then asked for and received a two week roster exemption for him.
As of 4:00 p.m. EST today, however, Bell has yet to show up at the Steelers facility and general manager Kevin Colbert was asked during an interview on 93.7 The Fan if he now knows exactly when the team’s franchise tagged running back will show up this year.
“You know what, that’s entirely up to Le’Veon,” Colbert said. “We know where we’re going to be on Monday, we know we’re going to be preparing for the Cleveland Browns. Hopefully Le’Veon is here and can get in here and prove to us that he’s ready to help us beat them. And that’s all we can say at this point because it’s totally up to him and there’s nothing you can do to change it other than to encourage him to be there.
“But you know, I know once he gets here he will help us win games. But again, until he gets here, we’re going to focus on the guys who are here and how can they all help us get ready to beat Cleveland and that that’ll be the focus. It won’t be about one guy, it’ll be about the 53 that we have preparing to play the Browns.”
Colbert was then asked if he thinks it’s a bit odd that Bell has yet to at least notify the team about when he’ll likely show up and especially if he was planning on doing so in the next few days.
“Well, again, that was really the scenario last season and again, there’s nothing you can do to a player that’s not under contract,” Colbert said. “And in all honesty, we’re focused on – look, the reality is he isn’t here. If and when he gets here, we’ll move forward, but right now we’re focused on getting ready for Cleveland and come Monday that’ll be with the 53 that we have available to us. And, you know, like I said, hopefully he gets in here and hopefully he’s ready to go because we have business to tend to and we know he can help us once he gets here and hopefully that’s sooner than later.”
As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, Bell, could, in theory, sit out the first 10 regular-season weeks (the Steelers have a Week Seven bye) and still get an accredited season. In doing so, however, he’d give up over $8.5 million in salary, just over $850,000 a week, just to reduce his injury risk. In short, it’s reasonable, one would think, to expect him to show up at the Steelers facility and sign his franchise tag in the next day or three.
The Steelers activated Bell the Saturday before their Sunday, Week 1 game against the Cleveland Browns last year. Will that be the path they take this year with him, assuming he shows up by Monday? Stay tuned. In the meantime, however, Colbert said Friday that the team is very comfortable with what backup running back James Conner has shown this offseason.
“We look forward to James continuing to be able to, to help us and again, if and when Le’Veon gets in, then we have James Conner to work with him,” Colbert said. “That’ll be a nice compliment, because James has had a real good preseason to this point and that’s good for James, but it’s great for us. And whatever the combination happens to be as we move forward, we’re not only excited for ourselves, but were extremely happy for that young man to keep his career on pace.”