Le'Veon Bell Reportedly out Week 1 vs. Browns Amid Contract Holdout

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2018

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14:  Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half of the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Heinz Field on January 14, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell will not play in the team's Week 1 road game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium after failing to sign his franchise tender before Saturday's 4 p.m. ET deadline, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter

Both Schefter and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Bell was not on the team bus when the Steelers left for Cleveland ahead of Sunday's game. Bell forfeits his $853k game check as a result, per Schefter.

Pittsburgh placed the franchise tag on Bell for the second straight season in March.

Last year, the Michigan State product didn't participate in camp or the exhibition games, but he signed his one-year tender on the Monday before the start of the regular season. That didn't happen this time.

Bell hinted toward the possibility of a more extended holdout during a March interview with Andrew Unterberger of Billboard.

"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," he 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 deadline for franchised players to sign long-term extensions came and went without the 26-year-old Ohio native agreeing to a new deal with the Steelers.

After Bell didn't show up for the first regular-season practices like he did in 2017, some of his teammates began to speak out about his continued absence.

"Now it's bigger than business, it's game day, and you're still not here, it's bigger than business," center Maurkice Pouncey told reporters Wednesday. "At this point it looks like he's not in the game plan."

Guard Ramon Foster added: "What do you do? Here's a guy who doesn't give a damn, I guess, so we'll treat it as such. I just hate it came to this."

All told, the Steelers' decision to officially rule him out for Week 1 comes as no surprise, and the situation remains murky moving forward. Even if Bell signs his one-year tender, it's unclear how long it would take him from that point to get up to game speed after so much time away.

James Conner should receive a majority of the backfield touches in Week 1. Stevan Ridley will handle any additional early-down snaps against the Browns, while Jaylen Samuels figures to work in on third down and other passing situations.   

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