Continue for updates.
Steelers Seeking Long-Term Deal with Bell
Friday, Dec. 16
Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Friday the Steelers are hopeful of reaching a long-term extension with the dynamic dual-threat workhorse to make him one of the "highest-paid running backs," but they will use the tag as "protection" to ensure he doesn't exit in free agency.
Bell is one of the biggest bargains in all of sports. The final year of his rookie contract features a cap hit of just under $1.2 million for the Steelers this season. By comparison, Adrian Peterson currently leads the list of running backs with a $12 million hit.
The 24-year-old Michigan State product has produced over 1,600 yards of total offense and seven touchdowns while playing for relative peanuts compared to most of his fellow stars. In all, he's averaged 128.5 yards from scrimmage across 45 career games for Pittsburgh.
Those numbers are going to earn him a monster contract, and it's hard to imagine a scenario in which the Steelers let him walk away, even if they have to lean on the franchise tag until a deal is reached.
In July, Bell spoke with James Walker of ESPN.com about the contract situation after releasing a song titled "Focus" that referenced a potential $15 million base salary. He didn't make that into a demand, and he made it clear he wants to stay in Pittsburgh:
I'm not a real greedy guy. I don't play football just for money or things like that. I just want to be valued. Wherever it is -- whether its $15 million or lower or higher, whatever it is -- I think we will get to an agreement eventually. Obviously, I want to be a Steeler for my whole life. My family grew up Pittsburgh Steelers fans, and it's crazy I even got drafted there. So I want to be with them and hopefully we'll reach an agreement. But that will take place once that time come.
A long-term deal wouldn't come without some risk, though.
Bell was limited to six games during the 2015 season before suffering a torn MCL. He also missed the start of the current campaign due to a three-game suspension for a violation of the league's substance abuse policy.
Those factors are unlikely to play a significant role because of his on-field production. He's one of the league's most valuable contributors and forms an explosive offensive triumvirate with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown.
The front office is going to do everything in its power to ensure he remains with the organization, and it sounds like Bell is open to a long-term agreement. The franchise tag, which ESPN pointed out is worth $12.377 million, would make sure he's in a Steelers uniform for at least one more year.
Contract info via Spotrac, unless otherwise noted.