Le’Veon Bell’s return to the Steelers continues to be in doubt the longer Bell’s holdout continues. Earlier this week, Bell tweeted “fairwell [sic] Miami” which many speculated could mean Bell was going to Pittsburgh to report. Miami is where Bell has been training during his holdout.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Bell is back in Pittsburgh and was spotted playing pick-up basketball at an L.A. Fitness. Rapoport noted the Steelers really want Bell to return despite the stellar play of James Conner.
While Bell has not announced a timeline for his return, we are likely to know by November 13th if Bell will play this season. Bell and the Steelers have until November 13th to reach an agreement as NFL.com detailed.
Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the prolific running back must sign his franchise tender or sign a one-year deal with the team ahead of the Nov. 13 deadline in order to retain his eligibility for this season.
Contrary to the speculation, the Steelers have not heard from the star running back per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
“Even though Le’Veon Bell tweeted ‘Farewell Miami’, the Steelers still haven’t heard from him and their focus remains the same with the players and coaches in the building as they prepare for Thursday’s game vs. Carolina,” Schefter tweeted.
The Steelers no longer have the option to trade Bell with the NFL trade deadline passed. Additionally, it looks like it is going to be increasingly more difficult for the Steelers to retain Bell unless a new deal is reached.
Le’Veon Bell & the Steelers Have Until November 13 to Reach a Deal for Next Season
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that the Steelers would have to pay Bell quarterback-type money if they franchise tag the running back again, something they are unlikely going to want to do.
My understanding is the NFL management council and the NFL Players’ Association, the parties that negotiated the collective bargaining agreement, are on the same page that if Bell were tagged a third time, whether he shows up this season, whether he sits out the entire year, that tag would be at the higher quarterback number, not the lower number similar to what he would be due under the franchise tag this year,” Pelissero said on NFL Up To the Minute on Tuesday. “It would be extremely unlikely for the Steelers to put that higher third franchise tag on Le’Veon Bell. That would set up a scenario where they’d tag him a third time, the number is upwards of $25 million and Bell, if he wanted to, could walk in the day he’s tagged, sign it and be owed $25 million for one season.
Pelissero also noted the Steelers are unlikely to fight this rule even if Bell holds out for the entire season. With the way James Connor is playing, the Steelers do not appear to be in a rush for their disgruntled back to return. NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala reported some Steelers players believe Bell is overshadowing the team.
“Just talked to a #Steelers player who said, ‘This Le’Veon thing is just a cloud over us at this point. Just make a decision, sign or not, be in or out, and let’s all move forward.’ Said James Conner’s ascension, team’s progress and group’s goals are all being overshadowed…” Kinkhabwala tweeted.
Prior to the Steelers Week 9 game, Mike Tomlin had strong words to say about Bell’s holdout.
“We haven’t spent a lot of time focused on it because it’s not within our control. Those decisions are Le’Veon’s. We need volunteers, not hostages,” Tomlin said per Sporting News.
Meanwhile, Bell posted cryptic tweets that were upside down.
Here’s what Bell’s tweets read.
“Just about everybody has an opinion on my life & worried about what I’m doing…don’t judge me off my decisions because maybe this isn’t what you’d do…but most people don’t take the time to just simply read between the lines…& that’s clearly on them…I’m not apologizing for what I believe is right for myself, family and the rest of my peers, period…also if you’re really finding the time to figure out what I’m saying, you’ve proved my point.”
Source: Heavy Sports