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Report: Steelers won’t do long-term deal with Le’Veon Bell until after using franchise tag

Jesse Reed
Le'Veon Bell Steelers

It looks like the Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing to play a game of chicken with talented running back Le’Veon Bell. The club has already thrown out what may or may not be a smokescreen of discontent toward the way Bell finished off his 2017 season, which is likely a means of attempting to manufacture some leverage.

Now comes a report from NFL Network that the Steelers is not expected to attempt negotiating a long-term contract with Bell until after it uses the franchise tag to secure him for 2018. This bit of news was shared at the bottom of the screen during an interview with Joe Haden on Monday morning.

Logically speaking, the Steelers would be dumb not to use the franchise tag to ensure no other teams can sign Bell out from under them in free agency. However, if this report is true and the team won’t even begin negotiations with Bell until after the tag has been used, things could get very sticky.

Bell has already made it known that he isn’t going to play out the 2018 season on the franchise tag. And by virtue of him rejecting what many have thought to be fair contracts in the past, he’s made it clear that he won’t do a long-term deal that doesn’t line up with what he believes he’s worth, which likely doesn’t line up with what Pittsburgh thinks he’s worth.

It’s going to be fascinating to watch this process unfold. Bell has unique abilities and doesn’t seem to be afraid of sitting out at least one season to get what he wants. Whether that’s a bluff or reality remains to be seen. What we do know is that the Steelers are a totally different team without the running back, who has a ton of leverage right now.