Jason La Canfora, citing league sources, reports that officials for the Steelers are moving forward as if franchise RB Le’Veon Bell will not be available for the first four-to-six weeks of the regular season.
As of now, La Canfora says that Bell has not given the Steelers any indication that he will be reporting anytime soon.
In fact, La Canfora mentions that Bell “seems intent on skipping a substantial portion of the season — and forgoing those game checks — to mitigate the risk of injury as he pursues a record contract elsewhere in the offseason.”
According to La Canfora, it would not be shocking to see Bell hold out until Week 10, which would allow him to return in time to still get an accrued year of service time and prevent his contract from tolling.
Bell opted to not report to the team by Saturday’s deadline, which means he officially forfeited his Week 1 game check of $853,000.
The Steelers reportedly have no plans to trade Bell nor are they going to rescind his franchise tag. Bell has yet to sign his franchise tender for the 2018 season, but all it would take is for him to report to the team and the sign the one-year offer.
On Wednesday, Bell didn’t report to the team in preparation for the season opener and his agent, Adisa Bakari, later explained that they’re looking to protect his long-term value.
“He’s going to do the things necessary to protect his value long-term,” Bakari said.
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 has him rated as the No. 9 running back out of 58 qualifying players.