The Steelers have used the franchise tag on running back Le'Veon Bell the last two seasons, but they aren’t expected to make it a hat trick this offseason.
They could use the transition tag, however. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the team is still considering that course of action with the intent of trading Bell to another team. Adam Schefter of ESPN had a similar report recently, although his left open the possibility of Bell returning to the Steelers.
That seems like an unlikely outcome given the acrimony of the last two years and a trade may be difficult to put together as well. Bell would need to sign the tag in order to be traded and the team moving to acquire him would have to give up compensation rather than just signing him to an offer sheet for a multi-year deal.
The Steelers would have the ability to match that offer, but it would likely be structured in a way that makes that unappealing and they wouldn’t get compensation if they opted not to match an offer.
Schefter reports that the use of a transition tag would also spark a fight about the value of the tag. PFT reported in November that, per the language in the CBA, a transition tag would cost $14.54 million, which is the same as the franchise tag for Bell last season, while Schefter reports the league will argue it should be around $9.5 million.
The Steelers would have to account for that cap space as the process plays out, which adds to the reasons why this route might not wind up being one they actually take.