Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell is expected to rejoin the team before the start of the 2017 NFL regular season after an extended holdout aimed toward securing a long-term contract extension.
On Thursday, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Bell will return ahead of the Steelers' Week 1 road game against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 10, but he added it "remains unclear exactly when" that will occur.
The 25-year-old dynamic playmaker told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com in July he "plans to play a full 16-game season" despite the ongoing contract dispute. He's yet to sign the team's tender to play under the franchise tag, which meant the front office couldn't fine him for missing training camp.
"I understand from [the Steelers'] side it's not personal against me; it's all business," Bell said. "It's not personal with them, either. I'm trying to do what's best for me and my family. I like the position I'm at right now. I'm going to play football."
Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reported Pittsburgh offered a new deal worth more than $12 million per season, including $42 million over the first three years, before the mid-July deadline to extend franchise players. Bell declined the proposal.
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Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Wednesday he'd prefer if the running back was practicing with the team, but he stopped short of saying they would consider taking the tender off the table.
"It's beneficial for everybody to be in camp. I'll argue that consistently," Colbert told Fowler. "Training camp is important for the growth and preparedness to be ready to play this game opening week. We can argue about camp and preseason, how many games and all that, but I do know you need to practice this game to play it at the highest level. Someone once said it would be like boxing without sparring. You can't just show up and play."
Bell could be the exception to that rule given his high-level performance across four years since Pittsburgh took him in the second round of the 2013 draft. He's racked up 6,050 yards from scrimmage and 31 offensive touchdowns in 47 regular-season games.
All signs point toward him lining up in the backfield when the Steelers and Browns clash next month, barring an unexpected late change of heart from either side. Knile Davis, James Conner and Fitzgerald Toussaint will continue to fill the void until then.