The Bell finally appears to be ready to toll.
Steelers all-pro Le’Veon Bell plans to report for duty during Pittsburgh’s Week 7 bye, according to ESPN, ending an ugly and lengthy standoff after the star running back and team failed for the second year in a row to reach a long-term contract agreement.
If that timeline holds, Bell would be available for the team’s final 10 games while accruing the season of service that would allow him to reach free agency in 2019. But also noteworthy, this plan suggests Bell’s first availability for game action would be Pittsburgh’s Oct. 28 home date against the Browns. The NFL trading deadline is two days later.
Bell has been the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks but can’t be moved until he signs his $14.54 million franchise tag tender, which is prorated throughout the season. If he does show in Week 7, he would still be due roughly $9.4 million this season, a figure any trade partner would have to accommodate under its salary cap.
The Steelers are off to a 1-2-1 start without Bell, with the 28th-ranked rushing offense putting a strain on Ben Roethlisberger (on pace for 744 passing attempts) and the passing attack. He led the NFL in carries (321) and touches (406) last year. But his agent has openly worried that the Steelers would run Bell into the ground this season since there’s a strong likelihood he won’t be back in Pittsburgh next year given his desire to command top dollar on the free agent market.
Bell had initially indicated he would report prior to Week 1, which he did in 2017, when he also skipped the club’s entire offseason program while waiting to sign his tag. Sunday’s injury to Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, who is also scheduled to reach free agency in 2019, may have factored into Bell’s thinking given he plans to forego another two game checks – while preserving his health – before making himself available this year.
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