Le'Veon Bell, Steelers Fail to Agree to New Contract Before Deadline

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJuly 16, 2018

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) scores as he is hit byJacksonville Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell (93) after taking a pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during the second half of an NFL divisional football AFC playoff game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Don Wright/Associated Press

A holdout may be in Le'Veon Bell's future.  

The Pittsburgh Steelers failed to agree to a contract extension with the superstar running back before Monday's 4 p.m. ET deadline, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN, meaning Bell will have to play on his franchise tag during the 2018 season.

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network broke down the Steelers' final offer to Bell:

"His intention was to retire as a Steeler," Bell's agent told Adisa Bakari told Schefter. "But now that there's no deal, the practical reality is, this now likely will be Le'Veon's last season as a Steeler."

"It became clear the Steelers wanted to pay the position, not the player."

Last year, Bell held out until the first week of September after failing to agree with the Steelers on a long-term extension. He may take the same approach this year, though Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reported Sunday that "the running back is prepared to play on this year's tag—worth $14.5 million—in the absence of what he considers a fair deal."

Bell and the Steelers have had on-again, off-again negotiations since last offseason, but they have remained unable to reach an agreement. Per Fowler, "Bell told ESPN this offseason that he won't sign an extension offer worth less than the tag number on an annual basis."

Bell had initially said in January that he'd consider either sitting out the entire 2018 season or even retiring if he didn't receive a long-term extension, comments he reiterated later in the offseason.

"I just have to decide if I'm going to play when the time comes," he told ESPN.com in March.

"I don't want to have the replications of what happened last year," he added in late June, per Chris Wesseling of NFL.com. "But if that came down to that, obviously I got to do what I got to do. Take my stand and protect myself. I don't want to have to do that. I want to go to camp and play for the Steelers long term."

Bell, 26, certainly can lay claim to being one of the most valuable offensive players in the NFL. In 2017, he posted 1,946 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns and ranked as Pro Football Focus' No. 71 player for the 2017 season and was projected to be the 24th-best player in 2018.

Still in his prime, Bell is seeking the security of a long-term deal. Thus far, the Steelers remain unwilling to meet his expectations on that contract. 

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