Le’Veon Bell Expected to Join Steelers Ahead of Franchise Tag Deadline
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell takes the field before their NFL football game against the New England Patriots at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)

Winslow Townson/Associated Press

Nobody knows for sure if Le’Veon Bell will sign his franchise tender and report to the Pittsburgh Steelers ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, but the team is anticipating the three-time Pro Bowler showing up.

Steelers owner Art Rooney II discussed the situation at hand Thursday with SiriusXM NFL Radio:

“I don’t know what his plans are, but I would say at this point we expect him to come back next week,” Rooney said. “We know he’s back in Pittsburgh, and so we’re hoping to have some communications with him over the weekend, and we’re kind of expecting he will be back next week.”

The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly reported Tuesday there is a “real possibility” Bell won’t sign his franchise tender. If he does not sign it by Nov. 13, ahead of Week 11, he will not be eligible to play for the rest of the season.

Per Kaboly, whether Bell plays at all this year or not, Pittsburgh would have to pay the running back the average of the top five salaries in the NFL if they franchised him next summer, marking the third consecutive year in which it would have done so. 

Bell let it be known Monday that he was leaving Miami, and he was spotted at a Pittsburgh fitness center one day later, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

On Wednesday, Bell had a message for his critics, telling them he was “not apologizing” for taking a stand:

Bell has been seeking a long-term deal with the Steelers in each of the past two years. However, the two sides have not been able to come to an agreement on his value.

On a related note, Los Angeles Rams star Todd Gurley helped set Bell’s market by signing a four-year, $60 million extension. And yeah, Bell took notice:

The 26-year-old told Fowler back in January that he wasn’t afraid to sit out the entire 2018 campaign or even retire if he could not reach a long-term deal during the offseason, noting his bank account is already plenty full. 

Bell has been protecting his long-term future by sitting out the first half of the season. However, he now has a major decision to make, with question marks still surrounding his contract status heading into next offseason.

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