Two weeks ago, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reported that Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell would return to the team this week. The fact that Fowler later that same evening published quotes from Bell created the clear impression that Bell was Fowler’s source for the report as to a Week Seven reporting window.
Week Seven is now here, and Bell has yet to report.
Per multiple reports, which apparently were pushed by the Steelers to multiple reporters at or about the same time, the Steelers do not expect Bell to return to the team this week.
As of Sunday, the Steelers had heard nothing from Bell. The fact that the Steelers now believe Bell won’t show up implies that they have since heard something from Bell, and that the end result of the communication was that Bell won’t be showing up.
So what happened? One potential explanation would be (and this is speculation not a report) that Bell planned to return today, the Steelers informed him that the team intends to use a two-week roster exemption, the Steelers proposed paying him less than $855,000 per week while on roster-exempt status, and Bell decided not to accept anything less than $855,000 per week.
Another potential explanation would be that Bell has had a change of heart, which may have been fueled by the possibility that the Steelers were going to trade him between now and the Tuesday after Week Eight. If he shows up after that day, the Steelers won’t be able to trade him.
Bell has given up $5.13 million through six weeks. But he also has avoided subjecting himself to the kind of workload that would jeopardize his earning potential if/when he becomes a free agent in March.