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- Le’Veon Bell is in Pittsburgh and potentially set to end his season-long holdout by reporting to the Steelers on Tuesday.
- Bell has already missed out on over $8.5 million in pay this year in favor of keeping his body healthy for his next contract.
- While Bell is one of the most talented weapons in football, the Steelers’ offense has been flourishing in recent weeks without him, and it’s unclear where he’ll fit in the current lineup.
Le’Veon Bell’s holdout might finally be coming to an end.
“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.”
Bell has yet to play this season, holding out initially for a new contract, and later to ensure that his body would be healthy when it came time for other teams to bid on him in the offseason. Thus far, Bell has missed 10 weeks of NFL action, losing out on over $8.5 million in game checks.
While Bell was seen in Pittsburgh, after the runaround that he’s given the Steelers all season so far, it’s tough to guarantee Bell will be back with the team until he’s literally in the locker room.
As things stand, Bell’s long-term future with the team is up in the air. The Steelers will likely either place the transition tag on Bell, which would give the Steelers the option to match any offer Bell received, or let him go into free agency and pick up a compensatory pick should he leave the team.
But even more compelling is Bell’s immediate future should he rejoin the Steelers this season. After a rough start to the year, Bell was openly trolling the team about his absence, but now Pittsburgh has won five straight games and looked in recent weeks as one of the most dominant offenses in the league.
Second-year running back James Conner stepped into Bell’s role and has been a revelation – he’s second in the NFL in rushing behind Todd Gurley and has already amassed 1,158 total yards and 11 touchdowns just halfway through the season. Supporting him is one of the most dangerous receiving corps in the country, with Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster both playing like studs and the tight end tandem of Vance McDonald and Jesse James both causing matchup problems for opposing defenses.
Should Bell return to the Steelers roster, it’s unclear where he’d fit into the team’s attack.
There is no doubt Pittsburgh would find a way to make things work – most likely by reducing Conner’s workload a bit to keep him fresh for what the Steelers hope is a deep run in the playoffs. But the chances are that Bell will have to work in to regain his spot in the locker room after skipping out on the team for half the year.
As things stand, the Steelers offense is moving just fine without him – Pittsburgh put on a show on Thursday night with a 52-21 win over the Carolina Panthers, scoring a touchdown of six of their eight first drives. If they can add Bell back into their lineup without disturbing the flow their offense has already hit, the Steelers could be marching towards another Super Bowl appearance.