The Pittsburgh Steelers have some issues to figure out this offseason, and running back Le’Veon Bell is high on that list. The team used the franchise tag on him this past year, and are reportedly considering it again this coming offseason. Bell turned down their offer a year ago, and there is no indication the two sides are any closer this year.
Bell said last week he would consider holding out or retirement if he was franchised again, and then walked it back, saying he was focused just on the playoff game. However, Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette is reporting Bell showed up for only the final few minutes of Saturday’s walk through, and then showed up closer to game time than head coach Mike Tomlin asks his players and coaches to report to the locker room.
This might also go beyond just being a Bell issue. Bouchette reported that more players and coaches ignored Tomlin’s request that they report to the locker room at least two hours before kickoff. There are questions of discipline that the Steelers will have to figure out this offseason, but the Bell situation is foremost on the radar of other teams.
The Steelers have until early March to decide whether or not to use their franchise tag. In the meantime, they have exclusive negotiating rights with Bell. My guess is a deal does not get done, in which case, the stare down likely commences with the tag. not tagging him and seeing him walk nets the Steelers a third round comp pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Tagging him means they have to do some maneuvering to fit his $14.5 million salary under the cap. They currently have a little over $5.3 million in cap space this year, plus a little over $2.6 million next year. They will only need their top 51 salaries under the cap, so they likely would have a little more space than that, but they still would likely need to restructure some deals and cut some players to fit Bell.
All of this is to say, they are dealing with some headaches right now.