Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that RB Le’Veon Bell is in Pittsburgh and took part in a pickup basketball game in recent days. However, it remains to be seen whether Bell will actually report to the team before next week’s deadline.
According to Rapoport, the Steelers still don’t know what he’ll do, but they “very badly” want him to show up and play this season. Rapoport explains that they could use some insurance to James Conner and another dynamic player to utilize on offense.
Steelers owner Art Rooney II also said Thursday that they expect Bell to show up next week.
“I don’t know what his plans are, but I would say at this point we expect him to come back next week,” Steelers owner Art Rooney II said an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio. “We know he’s back in Pittsburgh and so we’re hoping to have some communications with him over the weekend and we’re kind of expecting he will be back next week.”
“We’re in uncharted territory here in terms that this has never really happened, as far as I know,” Rooney added. “There are questions that we may get to at the end of the season, but we’ll cross those bridges when we get to them at the end of the season.”
Whether Bell actually reports next week or not, it won’t change his status next year in terms of the franchise tag.
It’s still possible that the Steelers could use their transition tag on Bell next, but that probably wouldn’t have a big impact on whether he’ll return to the team, seeing as he’s likely to command a better contract from another team that Pittsburgh will be unwilling to match.
Bell, 26, is a former second-round pick of the Steelers back in 2013. He played out the final year of his four-year, $4,120,600 rookie contract that included a $1,376,800 signing bonus and was in position to be one of the best players in the free agent market when he was franchised.
The Steelers used the franchise tag on Bell again this offseason, which means he stands to make $14.5 million fully guaranteed for the 2018 season before testing the open market as an unrestricted free agent next year.
In 2017, Bell has appeared in 15 games for the Steelers and rushed for 1, 291yards on 321 carries (4 YPC) to go along with 85 receptions for 655 yards receiving and 11 total touchdowns. Pro Football Focus had him rated as the No. 9 running back out of 58 qualifying players.
We have him featured in our Top 25 – 2019 NFL Free Agents list.