The Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they have activated RB Le’Veon Bell from the exempt list and released LB Steven Johnson in a corresponding roster move.
The Steelers and Bell were unable to get a long-term extension in place before this year’s deadline, which means he’ll play out the year under the franchise tag before testing the open market again in 2018.
A few reports previously mentioned that Bell turned down a five-year contract worth $60 million with $30 million being paid out in the first two years of the agreement.
Even so, the Steelers have said that they plan to pick up contract talks with Bell next year.
The franchise tag will run the Steelers around $12.3 million fully guaranteed for the 2017 season.
Bell, 25, 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 this year’s free agent market.
In 2016, Bell appeared in 12 games and running for 1,268 yards on 261 carries (4.9 YPC) to go along with 75 receptions for 616 yards receiving and three nine total touchdowns. Pro Football Focus has him rated as the No. 1 running back out of 62 qualifying players.
Johnson, 29, wound up signing on with the Broncos back in 2012. He spent three years in Denver before he was among their final roster cuts at the start of the 2015 season.
The Titans elected to claim him off of waivers and he finished out the year in Tennessee. Johnson later signed with the Steelers back in March of last year, but his 2016 season ended with him being placed on season-ending injured reserve in November.
Pittsburgh brought Johnson back on a one-year, $855,000 contract this past February.
In 2016, Johnson appeared in six games and recorded six tackles and a forced fumble for the Steelers.