Le’Veon Bell and the Pittsburgh Steelers are destined for another difficult contract negotiation, but the All-Pro running back doesn’t want to play anywhere else.
Following the team’s gut-wrenching 45-42 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Bell said “of course” he wants to return, per ESPN’s Katherine Terrell.
“I never want to leave this city, but obviously, circumstances and things like that. But I definitely don’t.”
Bell and the Steelers couldn’t agree on a long-term contract last offseason, and he ultimately played the 2017 season under the franchise tag. That seems to be the likely outcome for 2018, though Bell recently tried to increase his leverage.
The soon-to-be 26-year-old threatened to retire if Pittsburgh only uses the franchise tag. Though he’d earn plenty of money, Bell wants long-term security in addition to raising the market for other All-Pro runners.
In a league where average quarterbacks earn more than elite running backs, Bell’s attempt to change how teams value the position is both understandable and important.
During the 2017 regular season, he led the NFL with 321 carries and 406 touches. His 85 receptions ranked 10th among all players. There’s no question Bell deserves a high-dollar deal based on that production.
Unfortunately, it’s rarely that simple.
The Steelers might not offer what he wants then choose to tag him, so Bell will need to decide whether the retirement threat was more than a leverage play.