Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has sat out the first four games of the team’s 2018 regular season, and intends to continue to do so for two more games before reporting and signing his franchise tag, which figures to pay him 11/17ths of about $14.5 million, provided that he shows up during the Week Seven bye and the team agrees to pay him even if he is on the exemption list for two weeks.
Many wondered if he had already played his last snap for the Steelers, some believing that he would not even report at all this season, banking on the hope that the team would not franchise tag him a third year in a row to allow him to hit the open market.
According to Bell, he still plans on carrying the ball for the Steelers much longer than for the final 10 games of the 2018 season, as he told Jeremy Fowler via phone yesterday.
“I could be naïve or hopeful, but at the end of the day I feel like that’s what’s going to happen”, he told the ESPN reporter about the prospect of re-signing. “I don’t think they really want me gone. That could be me being prideful. But I’m still holding out hope”.
While Bell routinely expressed optimism about a deal getting done throughout this offseason, even saying that they were much closer than a year ago and at one point saying that he believed a deal would get done, he yesterday referred to what he claimed as $17 million in true guaranteed money in the Steelers’ offer this year as “monopoly money”.
That is a fairer comment in light of the contracts that running backs Todd Gurley and David Johnson signed following the deadline for his own long-term deal in 2018, but that still doesn’t mean the Steelers would be willing to make an exception in how they guarantee money in the contracts they negotiate just for him.
Meanwhile, he ought to concern himself with how he will be received in the locker room when he does report this year. The impression I get is that he has not spoken to many of his teammates in a fairly long time. He may be in communication with a select handful that he is particularly close with, but many clearly feel in the dark about what he’s up to and plans to do.
“They probably think I back-doored them. But I think they understand the decision”, he said of his teammates. “At the end of the day, they said what they said in the media. I’m not really too upset about it. It was a little disappointing, but I understand their side. When I talk to them, I hope they get that side of it”.