Despite reports that running back Le’Veon Bell would report to the Steelers in advance of their Week 7 bye, Pittsburgh has yet to hear from Bell himself and is unsure of his plans, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.
Bell, of course, is holding out to express displeasure with being franchise-tagged for the second consecutive season. When he does report and sign his tender, Bell will earn a prorated portion of a one-year, $14.544MM salary. However, if Bell were to report during the Steelers’ bye week, Pittsburgh could hypothetically deploy a roster exemption, which would enable the club to withhold pay from Bell during that week, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).
Bell didn’t participate in any offseason activities with the Steelers, so he hasn’t been present with the team since January. Indeed, one Pittsburgh teammate said it would be “weird” if Bell does report this week, specifically because of Bell’s long absence, tweets Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com. Last week, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger campaigned for James Conner, who’s been filling in admirably at running back, to retain a role even once Bell returns.
“I will push for James to get as much run as we can because we’ve seen some great things from him in all phases of football,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s picking up blitzes, he’s catching the ball, he’s running hard and making plays and playing with a passion, so we need to keep using that.”
Bell could still possibly be traded, as the Steelers have reportedly been shopping him in recent weeks. However, the Eagles, who were viewed as a leading contender for Bell, don’t believe running back is a glaring area of need. If Bell doesn’t want to be dealt, he would simply wait to sign his franchise tag until after the October 30 trade deadline, as unsigned players cannot be moved, as Joel Corry of CBSSports.com tweets.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.