Le’Veon Bell

Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell Discusses Future

Earlier this week, Le’Veon Bell threatened to retire or sit out the 2018 season if he was franchised. However, following the Steelers loss to the Jaguars today, the running back emphasized that he’d like to remain in Pittsburgh.

Le'Veon Bell (vertical)“Of course,” Bell said when asked if he wanted to return to the Steelers next season (via ESPN.com’s Katherine Terrell). “I never want to leave this city, but obviously, circumstances and things like that. But I definitely don’t.”

The Steelers are expected to slap Bell with the franchise tag for the second straight season, which means the running back would earn around $14.5MM. Despite the fact that that value would be the highest salary of Bell’s career, the Pro Bowler is pursuing a lucrative long-term contract. The running back is reportedly also eyeing a deal that would account for his importance in the passing game.

After compiling 67 yards on the ground and 88 yards through the air, Bell admitted that he wasn’t thinking of his next contract following the disappointing loss.

“Just the fact that I lost a game, I kind of feel the same way. All four games we lost this year, I feel the same way,” he said. “I hadn’t thought about it. I’ll go back, and tomorrow when I wake up, it might cross my mind, but I haven’t made it that far yet.”

Bell also noted that the Steelers have the right roster to make another run at a Super Bowl championship.

“I think we get everyone healthy, it can even be more special,” he said. “Give credit to [Antonio Brown]. He went out there at whatever percent and still gave his all. Obviously, wasn’t himself. Still made plays. Being incredible. Guys like that, you can’t come across all the time.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Notes: Brown, Bell, Haley

Antonio Brown is likely to play in the Steelers’ divisional round contest against Jacksonville this afternoon, as ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reports, although Schefter adds that Brown’s injured calf is not close to being fully healed. The league’s top wideout, who is one month removed from the partially torn left calf muscle that forced him to miss the final two games of the regular season, will go through pregame warmups to test the calf, but as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets, every expectation is that Brown will play and will play regularly. Brown was forced to miss Friday’s practice because of an illness, but he was a full participant in practices on Wednesday and Thursday, and Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets that Brown’s illness will not impact his playing status [Twitter update: Brown is active, per Schefter].

Now for several more notes on the AFC North champions:

  • His idle threats notwithstanding, no one expects Le’Veon Bell to retire or sit out the 2018 season if he is hit with the franchise tag for the second straight year, least of all the Steelers themselves. As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link), the Steelers are indeed expected to put the franchise tag on Bell, which has been a foregone conclusion for some time now. As Rapoport observes, Pittsburgh has historically refused to cede to the demands of players who threaten to sit out, and he does not expect the club to change it standard operating procedure for Bell. If Bell does play 2018 under the tag, he will have earned roughly $26.5MM over the 2017-18 seasons, while he would have earned $30MM if he signed the long-term deal the Steelers offered him last year. Nonetheless, we will still need to wait to see what the future holds before we can say for sure whether that was a wise financial move for Bell.
  • We heard at the end of December that the relationship between Ben Roethlisberger and OC Todd Haley is strained, but Rapoport goes one step further, saying that the relationship “is in as bad of a place as it’s been in years.” Nonetheless, Roethlisberger has thrived under Haley’s leadership, which puts the Steelers in something of a bind. Haley’s contract expires at the end of the season, so Pittsburgh will need to decide whether it wants to bring him back and hope he and Big Ben can put aside their personal differences since the on-field product has been so good, or whether it wants to move on. Of course, the decision could be made for the Steelers if Roethlisberger makes good on his threat to retire, or if offensive line coach Mike Munchak gets a head coaching job elsewhere and brings Haley with him, which Rapoport says is a distinct possibility.
  • Speaking of Munchak, who has already interviewed with the Cardinals for their head coaching job, we heard this morning that he could be a dark horse candidate for the Giants’ HC vacancy.

Le’Veon Bell Threatens To Sit Out 2018 Or Retire If Tagged

Barring something drastic changing by March, the Steelers are going to use the franchise tag on Le’Veon Bell for a second straight year.

If the parties fail to work out a deal by the July deadline, Bell could threaten a hard-line stance. The Pittsburgh ball-carrier said Thursday he would consider sitting out the entire 2018 season or retiring rather than play on the tag again, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes, adding Bell would probably retire if he did sit out an entire season.

It will eventually come down to me playing on the tag or not,” Bell said, via Fowler. “They tag me again, it will be me [saying], ‘OK, do I want to play on the tag or do I not want to play on the tag?’ That’s what it comes down to. If I was a free agent and they let me go, be a free agent, then yeah, I’m going to go explore free agency, test the market.”

A second Bell tag would be for around $14.5MM, guaranteed once the tender is signed, so Bell would be walking away from the highest salary of his career and a figure no other running back can come close to matching in a season.

Bell will turn 26 in the offseason and will be coming off a 404-touch season — by far the most of his career — and plays a position where bouncing back from these high-workload campaigns has proven difficult.

Just get the numbers straight, exactly where we want them. I’m not going to settle for anything,” Bell said, via Fowler. “I know what I do and what I bring to the table. I’m not going out here getting the ball 400 times if I’m not getting what I feel I’m valued at.”

Bell referencing touches could reflect he’s again hoping for a deal that also takes into account his role as Pittsburgh’s No. 2 wide receiver, which came up during the sides’ latest round of negotiations. Bell’s camp reportedly turned down an offer that would have paid him $30MM over the 2017 and ’18 seasons, so playing on back-to-back tags would end up costing him. And having not agreed to a deal this year deprives him of a key prime season that could be used in negotiations. But it’s undeniable how valuable he is to the Steelers, who have never had a running back prior to Bell land on two All-Pro first teams.

I’ve made a lot of money; I’m happy where I’m at; I’ve got a good family — I don’t really need to play football,” Bell said. “Right now, I’m just kind of doing it because I love it. Now, I’ve done everything but own a Super Bowl

“I don’t necessarily care about the money aspect of it. I just want to be valued where I’m at. If I am playing this game, I want to set standards for all the other running backs behind me, like Todd Gurley and Ezekiel ElliottMelvin Gordon, guys like that. I’m a guy they can kind of look at. I feel I can do that. I’m in a position where I can do that, and I’m going to do it.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

“Foregone Conclusion” Steelers Tag Bell

The Steelers and Le’Veon Bell are headed toward another negotiation this offseason, and the sides could be set for another lengthy impasse.

It’s now seen as a “foregone conclusion” the Steelers will apply the franchise tag to Bell, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports. Bell is finishing out his age-25 season playing on the $12.12MM tag. He’s making by far the most money among backs this season and doesn’t plan to adjust his demands, La Canfora notes.

Bell wanted $16MM per year during the most recent negotiation, and he will be seeking at least that much now after an injury-free regular season. The Steelers offered him a deal that would have paid him $30MM over the contract’s first two years. If he plays on the tag next season, he’ll make $14.54MM. Bell will have cost himself nearly $4MM between 2016-17 in that scenario.

La Canfora reports this impending Bell/Steelers standoff will likely go toward the July 15 deadline again. The running back wants a deal similar to Adrian Peterson‘s 2011 extension. Peterson signed for seven years and $100MM in 2011 on a deal that proved to be a major outlier and one that was signed prior to the running back position’s decrease in value. Devonta Freeman‘s $8.25MM-AAV contract tops the current market.

He’s likely steamrolling toward a second first-team All-Pro appearance. Prior to being held out in Week 17, Bell amassed 1,946 yards from scrimmage — second-most in his career. He carries incredible value to the Steelers’ perennial Super Bowl hopes. But Pittsburgh gave Bell 406 touches this season — by far a career-high. The high-volume back now has one fewer prime season remaining, which could well factor into these talks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Likely To Franchise Tag Le’Veon Bell In 2018

Le’Veon Bell turned down a lucrative extension offer from the Steelers just prior to the deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign long-term deals, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports that the two sides are likely headed down the same path in 2018.

Le'Veon Bell (vertical)

Bell turned down the deal, which would have paid him $30MM over the course of the first two seasons but an average of $13MM per year over the life of the contract, in his quest to earn $15MM per year. According to La Canfora, however, Pittsburgh just will not go that high, which means that if Bell does not adjust his expectations, the Steelers will slap him with the franchise tag again this offseason.

If that happens, then Bell’s decision to reject Pittsburgh’s offer this year will have been to his detriment. Instead of earning $30MM under the first two years of the extension, Bell will earn just shy of $27MM under two successive franchise tags. While he would still be eligible for free agency again in 2019, he would have to continue playing at an All-Pro level in order to have any chance of achieving his financial goals.

He is not off to a good start in the regard this season, as his rushing and receiving numbers are down across the board. And though he will not turn 26 until February, his injury and suspension history will always make teams wary of committing top-dollar to him over multiple years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

La Canfora’s Latest: McDaniels, Caserio, Luck, Bell

Although things could change very quickly, the 49ers are pleased with what they have seen from rookie head coach/GM tandem Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch during their brief tenures with the club. However, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports that San Francisco “intently pursued” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and player personnel director Nick Caserio this offseason and came very close to hiring both.

This does not sound much different than what we heard back in January, when McDaniels and Caserio were considered the runaway favorites to become the 49ers’ head coach and GM, respectively, and it was reported that McDaniels only withdrew his name from consideration when Caserio declined to interview with San Francisco. Both men have been very discerning when considering their next landing spot, and for good reason, considering their success and relative job security in New England. It is unclear as to why Caserio opted not to interview with the 49ers, but according to La Canfora, the possibility of a McDaniels/Caserio tandem in the Bay Area was even more real than it originally appeared. They remain a potential package deal, and they could leave the Pats in 2018 if the right opportunity arises.

Now for more from La Canfora:

  • The CBS Sports scribe reports that Browns head coach Hue Jackson is “irate” with the team’s decision to release Joe Haden, and that Haden’s release has intensified the tensions between the coach and the front office, specifically GM Sashi Brown. Jackson is particularly angry because the release had no football merit and, in his view, was clearly a salary dump even though Cleveland could have easily carried Haden’s salary on its books (although it was reported that the Browns did at least try to trade Haden prior to cutting him). We have heard previously that Jackson would get every opportunity to right the ship in Cleveland, but given the apparently shaky relationship that he has with the club’s personnel department, that may not be the case.
  • La Canfora writes that Colts QB Andrew Luck will miss several more weeks as he continues to recover from recover from offseason shoulder surgery. That is consistent with reports from earlier this week suggesting that Luck could be on the sidelines until sometime in October. Per La Canfora, Luck is expected to practice sooner rather than later and the plan is for him to ramp up his throwing regimen shortly. Indianapolis, of course, does not want to rush the face of its franchise, but if Luck cannot suit up for a few more weeks — and it would be unfair to expect him to perform to the best of his abilities immediately upon returning to the field — it is fair to wonder whether the Colts have any chance at a postseason push in 2017.
  • We heard back in August that Le’Veon Bell turned down a lucrative extension offer from the Steelers at the eleventh hour, and La Canfora writes that the star back would have actually received $18MM in the first year of the deal. However, the average annual value of the extension was $13MM over the first three years, and Bell has been adamant that his next contract pay him $15MM per year. Contrary to that August report, La Canfora says Pittsburgh officials never believed a deal was done, though they were optimistic given the strength of the offer. The two sides are expected to renew long-term discussions as soon as the season is over.

Steelers Activate Le’Veon Bell

It’s official now. Le’Veon Bell is a part of the Steelers’ 53-man roster going into the 2017 season.

The Steelers activated the fifth-year running back on Saturday and cut linebacker Steven Johnson, whom they re-signed earlier this week, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets.

Johnson played in Pittsburgh last season, seeing action in six games, after stays with the Broncos and Titans from 2012-15. The Steelers cut Johnson upon slashing their roster to 53 players but re-signed him two days later. The 29-year-old Pennsylvania native could conceivably be brought back soon.

Bell, who signed his franchise tender earlier this week, will play in Week 1 for the first time since the 2014 season. He missed the past two Steelers openers because of suspensions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Le’Veon Bell Signs Franchise Tender

It’s officially official now. Le’Veon Bell has signed his franchise tender, according to an announcement from the Steelers. Le'Veon Bell (Vertical)

Bell stayed home during training camp and preseason action after the two sides could not reach agreement on an extension before the deadline. All along, we heard that Bell would report to the team before the regular season and he made good on that when he arrived at team headquarters on Friday. He did not put pen to paper on his one-year tender, however. On Monday morning, he did.

The running back will now play out the season on a one-year, $12.12MM tender. If he continues to play at a high level, the Steelers will have to either use a second tag on him worth roughly $14MM or give him a monster multi-year deal to keep him.

Bell ran for 1,268 yards off of 261 carries last year, good for a 4.9-yards-per-carry average, and seven touchdowns. He also had 75 catches for 616 yards and two touchdowns. Bell earned a Pro Bowl nod for his performance and also was named team MVP.

The Steelers have received a roster exemption for Bell, so they are actually carrying 54 players on the roster as of this writing. They have two weeks to get the roster back down to the 53-man max.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Le’Veon Bell Reports To Steelers

As expected, Le’Veon Bell reported to the Steelers on Friday morning. He’ll sign his franchise tender, meaning that he’ll play out the 2017 season for $12.12MM. Le'Veon Bell (vertical)

Had Bell waited until after Saturday’s roster deadline to show up to team headquarters, he could have put his first two game checks in jeopardy. The Steelers, in theory, would have had the option to place him on the roster exempt list through Week 1, meaning that the two sides would have to negotiate his pay for that period. That was unlikely to happen, but the running back now knows for sure that he will collect his full $711K payout for each game.

Bell turned down a multi-year extension offer prior to this year’s deadline that would have paid him $60MM over a five-year term (assuming the Steelers kept him for the full span of the deal). Depending on who you ask, Bell’s camp may have agreed to the deal before 86’ing it at the last minute.

If Bell turns in another strong year, he’ll force the Steelers to tag him again for $14MM, make him a lucrative extension offer, or allow him to test the open market as an unrestricted free agent. If he falters or gets injured, he may regret turning down the $60MM deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Brock, Ware, Bell, Raiders, Colts

The odds of the Browns releasing quarterback Brock Osweiler and eating his fully guaranteed $16MM salary have seemingly increased in recent days, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk contends. Cleveland saved $15.25MM – nearly the sum of Osweiler’s salary – by releasing defensive lineman Desmond Bryant and cornerback Joe Haden in the past week-plus, which could make it easier to part with the QB now that he won’t be its starter, Florio posits. Osweiler is unlikely to garner any trade interest, so cutting the 26-year-old would enable the Browns to recoup a bit of his salary ($775K) if he signs elsewhere for the league minimum.

More from around the AFC:

  • Chiefs running back Spencer Ware did indeed suffer a torn PCL and LCL in the team’s preseason game against the Seahawks last week, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com confirms (on Twitter). Ware will undergo surgery and miss the entire season, leaving him in line for an “intense rehab,” Rapoport notes.
  • Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell will end his holdout Friday specifically to avoid landing on the roster exempt list, Florio reports. If Bell were to show up after cuts occur Saturday, the Steelers would be able to place the franchise-tagged star on the list for up to two weeks and pay him a lesser salary than his $711K game check during that period. It’s unlikely Pittsburgh would’ve done that, per Florio, but Bell will remove the possibility by showing up before cutdown day.
  • The Raiders may attempt to acquire a linebacker via trade or waiver claim in the coming days, according to Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. As Gehlken writes, the club didn’t invest much in the position in the offseason – it signed Jelani Jenkins for $1MM and used a fifth-round pick on Marquel Lee – and Cory James is now dealing with an undisclosed injury.
  • The Colts have worked out fullback Jody Webb, Alex Marvez of Sporting News tweets. Webb went undrafted out of Youngstown State in the spring and hasn’t signed with a team since then.