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Le'Veon Bell: Latest Contract News, Rumors, Speculation on Steelers RB's Future

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) carries the ball during an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2016

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell is set to enter the final year of his contract in 2016, but his future with the organization is very much in question.  

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Latest on Steelers' Stance on Bell

Thursday, Jan. 28

According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers are likely to offer Bell an extension between now and the end of his deal, but it may not be the type of contract the star rusher is looking for: "I think they will make him an offer this year, but he and his agents do not necessarily have to take it. It won't be a break-bank offer if they do."

The 23-year-old Bell is coming off a tough season that saw him miss all but six games due to a marijuana-related suspension and subsequent knee injury.

Despite missing so much action, the former Michigan State standout still produced to the tune of 556 rushing yards, 24 receptions for 136 receiving yards and three total touchdowns.

His true value was felt in 2014 when he racked up a remarkable 2,215 total yards, 11 touchdowns and 83 catches en route to being named a first-team All-Pro.

Unfortunately for Bell, injuries have kept him from sustaining that success. In addition to the torn MCL that cut his 2015 campaign short, a hyper-extended knee kept him out of the Steelers' playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens following the 2014 regular season.

Despite his durability concerns, head coach Mike Tomlin recently revealed that his recovery was going well, per Missi Matthews of Steelers.com:

While Pittsburgh managed to make the playoffs with Bell this season, thanks largely to the play of veteran running back DeAngelo Williams, it is unclear how many more productive years the 32-year-old back has left in him.

A late-season injury cost him a chance to take part in the playoffs as well, which forced the Steelers to lean on Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman.

The Steelers have an elite passing game due to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receivers Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton, but as they learned in the postseason, a solid running game is needed to supplement that.

Perhaps that fact will entice them to invest heavily in Bell despite Bouchette's feelings, but with a massive raise over Bell's current cap hit of $1.31 million, per Spotrac.com, in store, keeping him will likely require sacrifices elsewhere on the roster.

Bell is undoubtedly elite when he plays, but with the injuries piling up and quality running backs seemingly available in the late rounds of the draft on a regular basis, keeping him may not be the best move for Pittsburgh's long-term viability.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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