Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell Will Not Play This Year

The Le’Veon Bell saga – or, at least, this part of it – is over. The running back will not report to the Steelers or sign his franchise tender before the Tuesday afternoon deadline, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. This renders him ineligible to play in 2018. 

The Steelers tagged Bell for the second straight time, but he refused to play on a one-year, $14.5MM contract. There was previously confusion about the ramifications of a year-long holdout, but Bell’s camp recently confirmed that he cannot be tagged again at the same rate. A third franchise tag would cost the Steelers roughly $25MM, which assures that he’ll reach unrestricted free agency unless the team throws him a curveball and uses the transition tag.

Bell has sacrificed roughly $8MM in salary up until this point and he’ll forfeit another ~$6MM in earnings by stretching his holdout through the end of the season. He’ll also miss out on a possible Super Bowl run. Despite a rocky start, the Steelers lead the AFC North and appear well on their way to another playoff berth.

Bell’s stance has been the source of controversy this year, but, from a financial perspective, it’s hard to argue with his approach. If Bell suffered a serious injury this year, he would have jeopardized a massive payday in free agency. It’s likely that he’ll be dinged for his high usage in recent years and Bell did not want to take another hit as he seeks to break the mold for running backs.

Some GMs may shy away from Bell for a perceived lack of commitment to the game, but he still figures to command a record-breaking contract in the spring. The Jets, for example, are projected to have upwards of $100MM in cap room and figure to make a strong push for Bell, who will have just turned 27 in March.

Bell’s free agency will be a fascinating case to watch. It’s not often that truly elite players reach unrestricted free agency and Bell will arguably be one of the best to ever hit the open market.

Fortunately for the Steelers, they have found a very capable replacement in Bell’s former understudy. James Conner, 23, has 771 yards off of 164 carries in nine games this year, giving him a stellar average of 4.7 yards per tote. He also has ten rushing touchdowns and a 39/387/1 stat line as a receiver.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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52 comments on “Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell Will Not Play This Year

  1. Sheep8

    The man has his reasons and we cannot judge those since we do not walk in his shoes.

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    • elscorcho the marlin
      elscorcho the marlin

      Wow. Great comment. So used to reading snarky comments on here. Refreshing, to read one without it.

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    • Bill Jasper

      Seems like greed was the driving factor. I have no love for someone who can’t provide for their family after turning down nearly $15 million dollars for a years work.

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      • Astros2333

        This is not greed. If anything he’s trying to provide for his future. Why risk your skills on $14mm guaranteed when you can get FOUR to FIVE times that amount guaranteed in a long term pact?

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        • taylorcm

          My guess is he gets far less guaranteed money than 50 million. Todd Hurley is 3 years younger, and only got 45 million guaranteed. My guess he gets less than 30 million in guaranteed money.

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          • $30 million guaranteed with $40 million guarantee for injury sounds a lot better to me than $14 million. A year off the field will allow his cartilage and soft bone tissue to heal and recuperate properly, as it did for John Riggins who became the most effective older running back of all time after a full year off.

            Great move, Le’Veon. Delighted to see one of these players thinking long term.

            Of course this is predicated on Bell taking good care of himself while off football and not doing some crazy extreme sports (could include tennis) that do in a knee while he’s on his own time.

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      • bencole

        Seems funny how people support supply and demand on the team’s side but when the player uses it they call him greedy. Seems like a bunch of people who work really hard for not much money so they’re mad at those who bring enough value to the table that they can tell their bosses what they’re gonna do and not gonna do. Good for him.

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    • carlos15

      If you want to draw that conclusion he could have said from the beginning what his intentions are instead of sitting around silent year. We can judge him for that cause that is a BS move.

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      • Polish Hammer

        Not to mention what the Locker room thinks of him. Luckily for him Connor has been tearing it up so his absence hasn’t cost any Ws or they’d really be hating on him.

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      • Bell was prepared to do his six weeks of purgatory when it was absolutely required to reach free agency. NFL lawyers just cleared up that next year the franchise tag will be $24 million whether Bell plays or not this year. This was news to Bell so he made his decision based on new information.

        The team has had options all along – either give Bell a guaranteed contract or make him some promises to take reasonable care of him when he’s back. What I heard from Steeler land is that they planned to run Bell as hard as they could in his last season and let him go to free agency as damaged goods.

        This includes setting him up for deliberate injury in the tail end of 2018. Ben Roethlisberger is a very good quarterback, a fierce competitor and not a nice man (remember he gave an interview that he wouldn’t give 5 minutes of mentoring to Mason Foster to take his job). Bell’s life depended on Roethlisberger not setting him up for injury on catches across the middle.

        If I were Bell, there’s no way I’d go back into that angry vipers’ den of ill-wishers at this point.

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        • akaydn

          #1 – This is still a player who had an MCL tear and two drug related suspensions. So while, yes, Pittsburgh could give guaranteed money and hope he keeps it together and stays healthy it is no certainty he doesn’t break down.
          #2 – No team would purposely try to get their impending free agent injured. Set aside the negative impact to compensatory picks and it still would be a lawsuit and/or sanctions from the league.
          #3 – Mason Foster will never be a good quarterback because he is a linebacker for the Redskins.

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          • You wrote:

            No team would purposely try to get their impending free agent injured. Set aside the negative impact to compensatory picks and it still would be a lawsuit and/or sanctions from the league.

            I hope you’re right. What happened in New Orleans though? Gregg Williams is still working in the NFL as a defensive coordinator.

            My apologies to Mason Foster, it’s Mason Rudolph who bore Big Ben’s ire.

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    • madmanTX

      Based on past history, it seems likely Bell just wants to be paid like a King and afford the best ganja.

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      • tsolid

        Based on your history your mom should’ve digested you

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          • tsolid

            Yea… YOUR mom is a lil too jealous for my taste, so I let her go

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        • eric53027

          Can someone just ban tsolid already? I enjoy reading comments and the back and forth regardless of my personal stance on the matter but the personal attacks are just getting out of hand. Sorry for complaining about it.

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    • crosseyedlemon

      I don’t imagine a man that can blowoff $14M wears out shoes by doing a lot of walking.

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  2. nelsonj6

    Good! Ironically, this is the most selfish and unselfish thing he’s done all year. You can always use a back like le’veon but fortunately for the Steelers, Connor makes you forget about bell. Unselfish because there won’t be any controversy on who gets playing time and who doesn’t.

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  3. Bill Jasper

    They could still franchise him. $25 million? They are carrying over the $15 million from this season, so it would only cost them $10 million in 2019 cap dollars.

    His two year average would then be $12.5 million. Less than the $14.7 he was due to make this year.

    Though I don’t think teams are going to go madly tripping over each other to sign him. He may have overestimated what the market will bear for a 27 year old RB, who is one failed drug test away from a year ban. Then there will be the Dez Bryant factor sitting in the minds of some teams. Why pay him Bell that much money when he could come in and injure himself right off the bat because of not having played for over a year?

    Lots of factors. Bell probably should’ve signed the tag back in August and got an insurance policy for future earnings in case of injury.

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    • natsfan3437

      Bell overplayed his hand.This is a good free agent running back class a bunch of good players are free agents. Mark Ingram, Latavius Murray, Adrian Peterson, Tj Yeldon, Jay Ajayi, and Marshawn Lynch. They aren’t all in bells class if rb but a team can offer them 50-75% of what bells contract would be and get good production.

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      • Bill Jasper

        50 to 75%?

        Most of those guys won’t get more than $3 or $4 million annually, tops. Someone is going to badly overspend on Bell. Likely the Jets.

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        • natsfan3437

          Murray and Ingram will get 7 to 8 on multi year deals. Peterson might get 8 – 9 on a one year deal if he keeps going like this. Ajayi and Lynch will get a one year deal 3-5m. Yeldon will get around 5m on a multi year deal.

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        • natsfan3437

          I think bell will make around 12m on a four year deal.

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        • taylorcm

          Mark Ingram is far from garbage. He has been a top 10 RB in 2016 & 2017. He will get a 2-3 deal for 16-18 million. I would love him in Green Bay.

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        • Those backs are far from garbage, but they are not in Le’Veon Bell’s category (Peterson was but is pretty beat up and half a step slower now). Compare Bell with Todd Gurley only among active running backs.

          He’s more capable and versatile than Zeke Elliot, Leonard Fournette, Alvin Kamara, Melvin Gordon and LeSean McCoy. The only one who would be close if he was on the right team is McCoy.

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    • Bill Jasper

      Mark Davis doesn’t have that kind of money. Which is why Mack and Cooper are no longer Raiders.

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  4. David Mishiwiec

    Bell must already have a deal in place. The Steelers will transition him, Bell will get a deal elsewhere and only the terms of the deal & the compensation remain to be seen. This mess only hurts Bell. Teams will forgive anything other than a player who subjugated the game to anything other than the game itself. He’ll still get paid, just not as much as he would otherwise. That is as long as a deal with another team has not already been negotiated.

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    • bencole

      I don’t believe teams can negotiate with Bell, otherwise it’s tampering.

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      • tsolid

        They can have wink/wink conversations with his agent who represents other players also

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  5. madmanTX

    Lol Bell can go to the Jets. He’ll need medicinal weed to deal with the pain of all those hits he’ll be taking because their blocking isn’t as good as Pittsburgh’s.

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  6. steelman

    Bell will get paid next year by some team that needs a star. As a life long Steeler fan I think they should have traded him last year when he signed his tag. This mess has went on way to long. I hope the best for him but most guys that have left Pittsburgh do not fair to well. Now please no more is he coming or not…we know let’s move on

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    • The Ghost of Bobby Bonilla

      I hear you and remember thinking this season that Kevin Colbert messed up royally by not applying the Non-Exclusive Tag, which would have allowed Lev’eon get paid whatever he wanted from whoever and would have given the Steelers two #1s as compensation.

      While Lev I think messed up bad here, I think the Steelers’ GM pretty much messed up similarly.

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      • Yep, that non-exclusive tag would have been the ticket to a deal for Bell and compensation for the Steelers. Now the Steelers will get nothing (unless they match a $50 million deal for Bell which just on pride and arrogance they cannot do).

        Checkmate against Steelers/Colbert.

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  7. BloodySox

    I wish nothing but the worst for this guy. You guys can say whatever you want but he left 14.5mil on the table. He thinks he’s smart but he’s gonna get a reality check come FA. No team will give 20% of their cap to a running back . What if every player did this?

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    • tsolid

      Expect nothing less from a classless Boston fan. Adam Jones is another example

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  8. crosseyedlemon

    So with the curtain going down on this little drama we now need an update on the major contestants available to participate in next seasons version of “Liar Liar Ur Pants R On Fire”

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    • Guys, as I pointed out above, Bell and his agent thought he had to play six games this season to play out his tag. When they found out a couple of weeks ago that next year’s tag is $24 million play or no play, that fundamentally changed the situation.

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      • crosseyedlemon

        So what your saying is that Bell’s agent told him to flush 14M down the drain without having done thorough research on how all possible scenarios could play out? Seems ridiculous. An agent who admits he doesn’t even know how the tag system is structured, won’t be hired by anyone.

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        • tsolid

          Dude… he didn’t even come close to saying that. Likely Bell would’ve reported at some point, UNTIL the NFL informed him that he didn’t have to play to become a free agent, then the strategy changed. Smart of him to keep holding out

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  9. Armaday

    He should have shared this before the season, as I’m sure he knew the whole time. He ruined a lot of people’s fantasy seasons and that is a huge part of what keeps fans watching this sport.

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  10. forwhomjoshbelltolls

    Does Bell’s agent have other clients?

    Or is it just some guy that Bell knows?

    Bell gave up a lot of money and it’s unlikely he’ll make that money back on his next deal.

    Conner’s numbers have opened eyes about Bell’s previous success and Bell’s actions have opened eyes about his commitment to the game.

    What team is so desperate for the game’s most disposable position that they will overpay a guy who would be over 18 months removed from his last game action?

    Not seeing it.

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  11. KYRedSox17

    Good for you Bell. Steelers fans can’t even be that salty with how Connor is turning out. He will be a stud wherever he goes. For those saying he “won’t be in game shape”…Mike Vick did just fine after prison and AP is still rolling.

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    • akaydn

      I have nothing against Bell or the Steelers. Just disappointed as a fan. Conner looks like a good one, but it makes me wonder if this isn’t a situation like Denver had in the TD/Gary/Anderson days where they could drop in anyone behind their line and have running success. Only way to tell for sure is to see how Bell runs for someone else next year.

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      • tsolid

        Can you split anyone out wide that runs routes like like a WR and catches like a WR. Don’t you think that would be a nice extra weapon to have vs New England?

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  12. Wolf Hoffmann

    I don’t think this is going to end up the way Bell and his agent are hoping.

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