The Pittsburgh Steelers are a Super Bowl favorite again this season, and they boast one of the NFL's elite offensive units. That is, they COULD have one of the best if Pro Bowl running back Le'Veon Bell either reaches a contract extension, or he ultimately decides to end his holdout and return to the organization.
In a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, sources inside the team told the Pittsburgh-based newspaper that Bell made it clear to teammates he would be returning to practice on Labor Day. That, coming from the All-Pro running back himself, is apparently a lie.
The sixth-year pro was hit with the franchise tag by Pittsburgh this offseason, and kept his word not to show up for Steelers' training camp in Latrobe, PA. The three-time All-Pro is trying to capitalize on the success of his early years, and the once-in-a-career contract he believes he deserves.
Despite his desire to be one of the NFL's highest-paid players, Bell reportedly turned down an insane 5-year, $70 million offer from Pittsburgh earlier this summer and remains unsigned.
After the reporting by the Post-Gazette came out, Bell took to Twitter to make one thing clear: it's all fake news.
Bell is worth a heck of a lot of money, but he's taking a big risk by leaving a lucrative long-term deal on the table and continuing to hold out.
The Michigan State product holds the Steelers' franchise records for catches and receiving yards by a running back in one season, the most rushing yards in a game in Steelers history (236), and both the rookie, and overall season record, for scrimmage yards by a player.
The shelf-life of an NFL running back is short as it is. Bell is one sour season, or one lingering injury away, from not reaching the level of compensation he thinks he deserves.
Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley signed a four-year, $65 million contract extension with $45 million in guarantees this summer, making him the NFL's highest-paid running back. Gurley's not only younger than Bell, but he's arguably the better long-term prospect.
While NFL teams are working hard on their craft, letting iron sharpen iron, Le'Veon Bell is busy promoting his latest rap album.
The Rooney family, who have been primary owners of the Steelers since Art Rooney Sr. founded the team in 1933, are notorious for making the right move for the organization. If you think head coach Mike Tomlin and the Steelers' front office feel threatened in any way that Bell will leave the team next year, or worse yet, not show up for the start of the 2018 regular season, then you're sadly mistaken.
While the Steelers contingency plan of James Connor and rookie Jaylen Samuels may not be as explosive, they're doing their due diligence to reach across the aisle and negotiate with Bell.
It doesn't feel like they're ever going to get on the same page, though.
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