On Monday, Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network reported the unnamed teammate of Bell, who missed the first practice of the regular season Monday after sitting out the entirety of training camp and the preseason, made the comment to her last week.
The Steelers used their franchise tag on the 26-year-old rusher for the second straight season. He's yet to sign the one-year tender, which Spotrac notes is worth $14.5 million, and that makes him ineligible to participate in practices or games.
Bell followed a similar path after getting tagged last year, but he signed the tender on the Monday before the start of the regular season. That didn't happen this time around.
In March, the three-time Pro Bowl selection told Andrew Unterberger of Billboard he wasn't sure how he'd handle the situation if the sides didn't come to terms on a new deal.
"But obviously, when the end of July comes, wherever we're at… if I sign, everybody'll be happy, but if not, I guess I gotta play it by ear," Bell said. "If I'll be out till Week 1, if I'll be out till Week 10, or if I'm gonna be out there at all. It depends on how I feel at that time and moment."
The July 16 deadline for signing franchise players to long-term contracts came and went without an agreement between Bell and the Steelers. So he must either sign the tender or continue to hold out.
"We are disappointed Le'Veon Bell has not signed his franchise tender and rejoined his teammates," general manager Kevin Colbert said in a Monday statement. "Coach [Mike] Tomlin and the coaching staff will continue to focus on preparing the players on our roster for our regular season opener on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns."
If Bell doesn't return before Sunday's clash with the AFC North rival Browns, his next chance to play will come Sept. 16 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
James Conner figures to lead the Pittsburgh backfield in the star's absence. Stevan Ridley and Jaylen Samuels should also receive playing time as part of a committee.