Le’Veon Bell is “unlikely” to report to the Steelers by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
If the All-Pro running back does not report by the deadline, he will be ineligible to play this season, and his career in Pittsburgh is almost certainly over.
Steelers owner Art Rooney had said Thursday he expected Bell to report, while earlier this week, head coach Mike Tomlin had curtly addressed the matter by saying, “We need volunteers, not hostages.”
Bell’s saga has taken many turns since he first began his season-long holdout.
On Wednesday, he was spotted at a Pittsburgh fitness center, confirming he had left his Miami home for Pittsburgh and was presumably ready to report to the team.
Bell, who was designated with the franchise tag for the second year in a row this season, had been slated to earn $14.5 million. But, he’s already forfeited $8.5 million of that salary by not reporting, and will lose the remaining $6 million if he doesn’t report by the deadline.
If the running back does not report and sign his franchise tender by the Tuesday deadline, he would lose an accrued NFL season toward becoming a free agent. However, the Steelers would be unlikely to stick a third franchise tag on him next season, and would likely let him become an unrestricted free agent.
Bell’s holdout, and poor communication about when he might report to the Steelers, has worn thin with players and officials in the organization. Combine that with the exceptional play of running back James Conner, who is putting up Bell-like numbers, and it’s a virtual certainty that Bell’s career in Pittsburgh is over if he doesn’t report by the deadline.
At that point, the question would be, how much, if any, would all the holdout drama hurt Bell’s value in free agency?