For the second straight year, the Steelers have applied the franchise tag to running back Le'Veon Bell. For the second straight year, the Steelers and Bell possibly won’t get a long-term deal done before the mid-July deadline.
Regardless, Steelers G.M. Kevin Colbert said that Bell will be back with the team this year.
“[H]e’ll be a Pittsburgh Steeler in 2018,” Colbert said during a visit to PFT Live during the league meetings in Orlando. “Unless he did something that he didn’t do last year, I think we can assume that if we don’t get a long-term deal done he’ll show up and he’ll be as ready as he can be. Ideally, [we] would love to have him there for training camp. Not only for himself but for the rest of the team.”
That thing he “didn’t do last year” would be a holdout that extends into, and possibly through, the 2018 season. That’s highly unlikely, given that Bell will make $14.56 million for one more year with the Steelers.
It’s also highly unlikely that the Steelers will rescind the franchise tender from Bell at some point before he signs it.
“I always say that of course it’s a possibility but not a probability,” Colbert said. “We wouldn’t have tagged him if we ever felt that. Right now, we know that Le’Veon will play for us in 2018 if he plays anywhere. That part would never be — I wouldn’t say never because something crazy can always happen. But that wouldn’t be a probability.”
For now, the goal remains to sign Bell to a long-term deal.
“We’ll try to reinstate those talks,” Colbert said. “Not on July 14th. Hopefully, we can maybe address it quicker than that.”
Getting him signed to a long-term deal means Bell would be at training camp, unlike last year.
“I think any player that misses camp — in his case it’s not a holdout if he hasn’t signed [the franchise tender],” Colbert said. “He’s not required to be there. . . . I think it does affect that player but I think it affects his teammates as well because they don’t get to work together. He had a productive year without coming to camp last year. Were we as good as we could’ve been especially early? Probably not. Hopefully, again, we can get something done long-term. He plugs in, there’s no distractions, and we go all try to win a Super Bowl.”
It would be Super Bowl win number seven for the Steelers, who definitely would be in much better position to achieve that goal if they have Bell all in for all of the 2018 offseason, training camp, and preseason.