Le'Veon Ball pinky
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve heard a bunch of numbers thrown around about how much Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell wants on his new deal.

He’s hinted at wanting at least $17 million per year before.

According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, however, it’s not quite that extreme, but it’s still a huge number.

“Bell told ESPN he won’t accept an extension worth less than $14.5 million per year, his franchise tag number for 2018. If the sides fail to reach a deal, Bell will play out a one-year deal at that number. But he’s not under contract because he hasn’t signed that tag, and he might not do so for a while.”

The Steelers are understandably wary about paying a running back — the position of least longevity in the NFL — this kind of money, especially on a long-term deal that will inevitably include a gigantic pile of guaranteed cash.

At the same time, we get why Bell would hold to this number, too. He is the best running back in the game today, and he’d be foolish not to leverage his position as a two-time franchised player.

At this point, it really is starting to look like Bell will live up to his promise, show up after training camp has concluded to play out the 2018 season and then become a free agent next spring. He’s essentially taking the Kirk Cousins route, which absolutely worked out well for the now Minnesota Vikings quarterback.

We know teams will be clamoring for a chance to sign Bell next offseason. Right now, the ball is in Pittsburgh’s court. And the Steelers aren’t exactly known for caving to pressure when it comes to contracts.