According to ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler, Bell said Thursday he "would definitely consider" sitting out the 2018 season or retiring if the Steelers use the franchise tag on him for a second straight season.
Bell added he "hope[s] it doesn't come to that" regarding a possible stalemate between him and the Steelers.
He would later take to Twitter to ensure fans he remains focused on the playoffs despite his comments:
The three-time Pro Bowler played the 2017 season on a one-year tender worth $12.1 million. He held out until Sept. 4 before officially signing the contract, missing virtually all of Pittsburgh's preseason preparations.
According to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, Bell would make $14.54 million if the Steelers franchise-tagged him again. To put that figure in perspective, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin is set to have the highest base salary at the position in 2018 at only $6.75 million, per Spotrac.
In the short term, Bell stands to gain a lot by signing the franchise tender. His desire for more long-term stability is understandable, though.
Since 2013, only LeSean McCoy has more touches than Bell, according to Pro Football Reference, even though Bell has played all 16 games in a season just once. The 25-year-old has logged 1,229 carries and 312 receptions.
Running back is an unforgiving position for players in their late 20s and early 30s. While Bell is still relatively young, his increased workload in recent years could mean an earlier decline.
Bell's earning power may never be higher than it is this offseason, so it's little surprise he's willing to do whatever it takes to get as much money as possible—whether from the Steelers or another team.