It’s now official, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell will sit out the entire 2018 regular season after failing to report to the team by Tuesday at 4 p.m. EST to sign his franchise tag.
Bell, who was given a $14.544 million franchise tag back in February, will now wait and see if the Steelers decide to use either the franchise or transition tag on him next offseason.
After the Steelers failed to sign Bell to a long-term contract extension by the league’s middle of July deadline, the running back skipped training camp and the entire preseason just as he did in 2017. The former second-round draft pick has since decided to forfeit over $850,000 a week in pay presumably in an effort to save wear and tear on his body.
It was believed for a while that Bell would show up and sign his franchise tag tender during or right after the team’s Week 7 bye week. After he failed to do so, it was then heavily speculated that Bell would finally report to the Steelers and sign his franchise tag tender after the trade deadline passed a few weeks ago. That obviously failed to happen as well.
Throughout Bell’s entire holdout process he hasn’t apparently had contact with most of his teammates or his head coach. Additionally, it appears as though Bell and his agent Adisa Bakari kept the Steelers front office in the dark in regard to his intentions throughout the running back’s entire holdout. Bell, however, had apparently been texting fellow Steelers running back James Conner with some regularity to praise him for his play during games.
While Bell has posted some on his social media accounts throughout the offseason, most of his postings related to his football future and the Steelers have been somewhat cryptic in nature. Throughout this entire process Bell and his agent have talked about the lack of guaranteed money the Steelers have offered Bell contractually in interviews each have done.
It will now be interesting to see what happens next offseason with Bell in free agency. Even if the Steelers were to use the transition tag on Bell, he will surely find at least one team willing to give him enough money to entice him to sign an offer sheet that Pittsburgh surely wouldn’t want to match.
In short, there’s now a very good chance that Bell has played his last game in a Steelers uniform and head coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t seem to be too worried about that possibility.
“I have no reaction,” Tomlin said Tuesday when asked what his reaction would be should Bell not report by today’s deadline. “I’ve told you guys and I’ve told you guys consistently, a reaction comes from me if and when he walks in the door. Until that happens, I’m business as usual, focusing on those that are here and working. And appropriately so, that way I don’t waste my time and theirs.
So, what if Bell never walks through the doors of the Steelers facility every again?
“So be it,” said Tomlin.