Pittsburgh’s offense could be altered drastically in the coming days with All-Pro RB Le’Veon Bellexpected to rejoin the team by Tuesday’s deadline.
Bell set to Rejoin Team By Tuesday
The Steelers (6-2-1) are on a five-game winning streak and could see their already dominant offense improved in the coming days if Bell returns by Tuesday.
On Thursday, Steelers president Arthur Rooney II took to Sirius XM radio to announce that the team expects Bell to return next week.
“We’re in uncharted territory here in terms of, this really has never happened before as far as I know,” Rooney said. “So, there are questions that we may get to at the end of the season. We’ll cross those bridges when we get to them at the end of the season.”
Bell, who refused to sign a $14.5 million franchise tag in the offseason, has missed ten games and must report by Tuesday or he forfeits the 2018 season.
The Steelers front office have tried to remain quiet on Bell’s absence, but the story has grown unavoidable since Bell has held out longer than any NFL player on a franchise tag.
Counting the weeks missed, he has officially lost out on $8.52 million worth of earnings.
“I don’t know what his plans are, but I would say that at this point we expect him to come back next week,” Rooney said. “We know he’s back in Pittsburgh, so we’re hoping to have some communications with him over the weekend. We’re kind of expecting he’ll be back next week.”
The Steelers could try to apply a transition tag to Bell after the season, which would give them the right of first refusal on Bell and an opportunity to see his true market value.
Bell took to Twitter Wednesday night to post two upside-down messages saying in part that he is “not apologizing” for holding out.
“Just about everybody has an opinion on my life & worried about what I’m doing,” Bell wrote. “… Don’t judge me off my decisions because maybe this isn’t what you’d do … but most people don’t take the time to just simply read between the lines … & that’s clearly on them … I’m not apologizing for what I believe is right for myself, family, and the rest of my peers, period … also if you’re really finding the time to figure out what I’m saying, you’ve proved my point.”
The Steelers have extended their AFC North lead over the Cincinnati Bengals (5-3) to a full game, while giving them the fourth-best record in the conference heading into the weekend.
After winning five games in a row, Thursday nights matchup against Carolina (6-3) was the first time in Pittsburgh’s hot streak that running back James Conner didn’t rush for at least 100 yards.
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In Bell’s absence, Conner has produced a total of 1,158 yards and 11 touchdowns through the team’s first nine games. Coach Mike Tomlin said Conner was placed into concussion protocol after Thursday’s 52-21 victory against the Panthers.
Pittsburgh will head to Florida next Sunday to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5) who are enthralled in a four-game losing streak. The game will air on CBS at 1:00 p.m. EST.