As you all know well by now, Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert made it clear when speaking to a gathering of local media reporters on Wednesday that the team had no intentions of applying a tag on running back Le’Veon Bell this offseason, whether it be the franchise tag or the transition tag.
“The one thing we will announce today is we will not be using any type of franchise or transition tag on Le’Veon Bell”, he said, per the transcript provided to us by Will Graves of the Associated Press. “We looked at the different aspects of things and quite honestly the production from that position, the collective [production] of running backs this year was pretty good”.
With Bell not in town, the Steelers moved forward with second-year running back James Conner as their starter, and he proceeded to have a Pro Bowl season, rushing for close to 1000 yards with nearly another 500 yards receiving in 13 games, missing three contests due to injury. His 13 total touchdowns is more than Bell scored in any one season.
In addition to Conner, rookie Jaylen Samuels also began to become a contributor for the offense later in the season. He started the three games that Conner missed, and that included a game against the New England Patriots in which he rushed for over 140 yards.
“Le’Veon is still a great player but we can’t afford to use any type of tag with the other needs that we have, and I did use the word need, but the other things we would like to do to help our team get better”, Colbert said.
“So Le’Veon will be an unrestricted free agent come the beginning of the new League year and will he still be in our thinking, sure”, he added, however. So this suggests that they do not completely dismiss the possibility of re-signing him should his price tag prove to be affordable.
“We will always continue to monitor everybody out there because we do not know where our market will be, where his will be”, he said, “and those types of things will still be available to us but there will not be a tag or restriction on him from our point”.
While it was reported that the Steelers were considering placing the transition tag on him only for the possibility of trading him, Colbert did not confirm the second part of that report. He only verified that the transition tag was something that they considered using for him.
But what if it turns out that Bell has a weaker market than he anticipated? What if he finds that teams are hesitant to commit too much in full guarantees to somebody who hasn’t played football in over a year? Could Colbert and company conceivably look his way again, even with Conner in tow?