Le'Veon Bell to Be Free Agent After Steelers Turn Down Transition Tag

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2019

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell runs against the New England Patriots during an NFL football game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)
Winslow Townson/Associated Press

Le'Veon Bell is free.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will not use the transition tag on the superstar running back, allowing him to become a free agent, according to Ed Bouchette of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

The Steelers and Bell had been negotiating a long-term extension for two years before this season, and the 27-year-old didn't report to the Steelers in 2017 until the first week of the NFL season, as he held out after the team slapped him with the franchise tag. 

Pittsburgh used the tag for a second straight year ahead of the 2018 campaign, even after Bell said publicly in January 2018 that he might consider retiring or holding out for an entire season if he didn't get an extension. Bell lived up to his remarks and didn't play.

Had the Steelers slapped a tag on him for a third straight year, it's possible Bell would have sat out for a second straight season.

When on the field, Bell is arguably the NFL's best running back, and the 2017 season saw him accumulate 1,946 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns.

He's registered at least 1,200 rushing yards, nine touchdowns, 75 receptions and 600 receiving yards in three of the past four seasons he has played. Those are gaudy numbers to put up once—let alone to post consistently—and they've made him one of football's most dynamic offensive weapons.

As the traditional three-down becomes rarer in the NFL, Bell thrived in all facets for Pittsburgh. But he was unlikely to serve as the featured back there again, given James Conner's ascendance.

Where Bell will land is a mystery, but he'll unquestionably be one of the biggest names on the market this spring.     

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