According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, "a franchise tag is likely coming" for the three-time Pro Bowler.
Rapoport explained the Steelers didn't believe his threat to retire and fully expect Bell to play again in 2018:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
From @NFLGameDay: #Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell told @JFowlerESPN this week he may retire if tagged. Well... a franchise tag is likely coming. What happens next? https://t.co/n2UzFTBDgF2018-1-14 12:29:40
This came after Bell said he would think about retirement if the Steelers used the franchise tag on him for the second straight year, per ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler.
Bell played on the franchise tag worth $12.1 million during the 2017 campaign after he held out before the season started. Despite the potential for a future contract stalemate, he ensured fans his focus is solely on the playoffs:
Le'Veon Bell @L_Bell26
I’m trying to win a super bowl...I can care less about what happens after this season...my biggest thing I’m focused on is this team I’m on right now, playing for/with my brothers, & bringing back a 7th ring! what happens next year is irrelevant to my goals2018-1-11 23:40:12
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported Bell preferred a long-term deal worth $16 million a year before the 2017 season and "is only going to seek at least that much now." The cap hit for the Steelers to franchise tag him again in 2018 would be $14.54 million.
According to Fowler, Bell turned down a contract offer that would have given him up to $30 million in the first two years during negotiations last offseason "because he felt the team didn't value his full skill set."
That skill set was on full display in 2017, when he was once again one of the best players in the league.
The Michigan State product played 15 games and finished with 1,291 rushing yards, 655 receiving yards and 11 total touchdowns. It was his second straight season with more than 600 receiving yards and 1,200 rushing yards as a two-way threat who takes pressure off quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Long-term commitments to running backs are always risky considering the physical toll the position takes on players, but Bell is still just 25 years old and showed no signs of slowing down this season.