La Canfora says that Pittsburgh “made every effort” to sign Bell to an extension before the deadline to negotiate with franchise players this summer, but Bell ultimately decided to play out the year under the franchise tag.
While Bell’s 2017 season has been up and down for the most part, La Canfora mentions that he remains a “central cog” to their offense and will likely be so in the coming years.
League sources tell La Canfora that Bell is seeking a contract that would pay him $15 million per year and the Steelers have no intention of offering him that much money.
This past July, the Steelers’ final offer to Bell was worth $30 million over the first two years of the agreement, which is more money than Bell would have made under two franchise tags. Beyond that, the deal would have paid Bell an average of $13 million per year, which is huge money for a running back these days.
The 2018 franchise tag should run Pittsburgh close to $14.5 million fully guaranteed.
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 the free agent market when he was franchised.
Bell will make around $12.3 million fully guaranteed for the 2017 season under the tag and be an unrestricted free agent again in 2018.
In 2017, Bell has appeared in five games for the Steelers and rushed for 371 yards on 102 carries (3.6 YPC) to go along with 27 receptions for 144 yards receiving and three total touchdowns. Pro Football Focus has him rated as the No. 18 running back out of 54 qualifying players.