With five days to go until Le'Veon Bell faces the final deadline for showing up at in 2018, the Steelers are in the same position as everyone not named Le’Veon Bell: They have no idea what he’s going to do.
Per a league source, the Steelers have a plan for every potential outcome, which at this point boils down to two. He shows up, or he doesn’t. The Steelers simply don’t know at this point which it will be.
The one wild card in the analysis continues to be the ongoing health of running back James Conner. If Conner suffers a season-ending injury on Thursday night against the Panthers (for tailbacks, the possibility of a season-ending always looms), Bell suddenly acquires significant leverage, permitting a last-ditch effort to get the Steelers to offer more than $855,000 per week for the rest of the regular season, possibly along with an incentive package tied to postseason performances, among other things.
Assuming Conner emerges unscathed from the game against the Panthers, the Steelers will wait for Bell to show up, or not to show up, by Tuesday. If he does, the current plan isn’t to treat him like a rented car with full insurance coverage, but to incorporate him into the offense in a way designed to make it better. That could include, among other things, keeping Conner in the backfield and, from time to time, lining Bell up in the slot.
None of that matters unless and until he shows up. And the Steelers, like everyone not named Le’Veon Bell, will be waiting to see what happens by Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. ET.