The Steelers can’t fine running back Le'Veon Bell for skipping training camp because Bell hasn’t signed his franchise tender, but they can try to point out to Bell that he’s not helping himself by missing time on the field with the rest of the team.
That’s the approach General Manager Kevin Colbert chose to employ while discussing Bell on Wednesday. Bell is set to make $12.1 million under the terms of the franchise tag and the deadline to sign a multi-year deal passed last month, leaving Bell with the choice to report, stay away from camp or agree to a different one-year deal.
Such a deal could pay him more money for 2017 or include a clause barring the Steelers from tagging him again, but Colbert suggested that’s not in the cards by saying there’s nothing for him to talk to Bell’s agent about at this point.
“My feeling is there’s nothing to be gained by a holdout,” Colbert said to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The situation won’t change, it can’t really change from our part on a long-term deal. So it hurts him not to be here. It hurts him because he’s not working with his teammates, he’s not getting the conditioning work that he’s going to need to have a great 2017 season. And he’s not working with his teammates to get acclimated to the offense — every year it’s different.”
Colbert said the team would love to have Bell in camp, but “when he’s not here we’re going to look at the other guys.” Rookie James Conner would seem to be a better candidate to threaten Bell’s place in the team than Fitzgerald Toussaint or Knile Davis, but he has been dealing with a shoulder injury and a return to practice on Tuesday ended quickly.
Bell won’t lose any money unless his holdout spills into the regular season and he starts missing game checks, so he can report at any point before that and still receive the full $12.1 million. We’ll see if he agrees with Colbert that there’s still more to lose by not joining the team until that point.