"I wanted to make sure I was fresh for the season," Bell said Monday, per Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I didn't want to jeopardize myself and get hurt in camp. I understand I'm on a one-year deal, so I have to prepare and play football. I didn't want to get hurt in camp. In my rookie camp, I got hurt. I didn't want to deal with that. I'm going to be ready for Game 1, the games that count."
Bell and the Steelers were unable to reach an agreement on a long-term extension prior to the deadline for them to get a new deal done. As a result, Bell decided not to sign his one-year franchise tender until Monday, when he officially reported to the team.
Bell's justification is understandable. He's coming off his second Pro Bowl, is one of the NFL's best running backs and has nothing to prove during training camp or the preseason.
Bell has also been worked harder than all but one running back since entering the league in 2013. According to Pro Football Reference, only DeMarco Murray has more touches (449) during that time than Bell (373), who's tied for second with David Johnson.
And that's despite Bell missing 10 games and suffering a season-ending torn MCL in 2015.
Should the Steelers opt against using the franchise tender for a second season in a row, the 25-year-old stands to become potentially the highest-paid running back in the league next offseason.