The Steelers and running back Le'Veon Bell have 12 days left in their second annual effort to work out a long-term deal that replaces the franchise tag. Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis thinks they should.
“Neither one of you are as good by yourself as you are together,” Bettis said, via TMZ.com.
Bettis had specific advice for Bell, who refused the team’s best multi-year deal a year ago and who has yet to accept the team’s best offer in 2018, whatever it may be.
“Le’Veon, you’re not going to be as good going somewhere else because they’re not going to have the offensive line, they’re not going to have the quarterback, the receivers that they have in Pittsburgh,” Bettis said. “You have a full complement around you that allows you to be as great as you want to be.”
Of course, Bell helps make the offensive line, the quarterback, and the receivers that they have in Pittsburgh look better, just as he would do if he had a chance to sign with any other team. The Steelers for two straight years have blocked his ability to do that by using the franchise tag.
Absent a long-term deal by 4:00 p.m. ET on July 16, Bell could hit the open market in March 2019. By rule, the Steelers would have to apply the quarterback franchise tender in order to keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent a third time, bumping his one-year pay from $14.5 million to roughly $25 million.
Before that happens, the Steelers would have an exclusive window from the end of the 2018 regular season into late February to try one final time to get Bell signed. At that point, however, Bell will hold all the cards, since he’ll just be weeks away from getting a chance to consider whether another team has the offensive line, quarterback, and receivers to allow him to be as great as he wants to be.