From the moment the Steelers unveiled their online depth chart for 2018, Le'Veon Bell appeared on it as the first-string running back. Now, two days after James Conner generated nearly 200 yards from scrimmage in the Week One game against the Browns, Bell’s name is nowhere to be seen.
The team has removed Bell’s name from the depth chart, as his holdout lingers.
It’s unclear why they did it. Maybe it’s a way to apply pressure to Bell, via a “we’re moving on without you” vibe aimed at getting him to choose to climb onto the train as it rolls away. Or maybe they finally realized that Bell shouldn’t have been on the depth chart in the first place.
Although the Steelers hold the exclusive right to enter into a contract with Bell, there is no contract. He isn’t an employee of the Steelers. And he won’t be until he signs a contract.
When that happens remains to be seen. The reasoning that prompted him to miss one regular-season game (a desire to avoid being overused) should prompt him to miss as many as he can while still preserving his ability to become a free agent next year. Which means that he may be off the depth chart until the Tuesday after Week 10, the latest day on which he can sign the franchise tender and as a practical matter win his freedom for 2019.