Is Le'Veon Bell going to play for Steelers in Week 1? Here's why it's not looking great

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is at its best when Le'Veon Bell is on the field and doing his patient running/lethal receiver thing. One problem for the Steelers as they prepare for their Week 1 game against the Browns: Bell is not back with the team as of Wednesday morning. 

So will he play in Week 1? It's actually looking kind of doubtful right now. 

Way back this offseason, Bell promised Steelers fans he would go big this year, but that he wouldn't be showing up until Week 1 unless he got a new contract from Pittsburgh.

Week 1 is here and Bell hasn't shown up. GM Kevin Colbert issued a statement on Monday saying the team was "disappointed" in Bell deciding not to join his teammates and/or sign his franchise tag tender. Bell was radio silent over the weekend and on the holiday -- many pointed to Wednesday's meetings and practice as an inflection point for his availability in Week 1. 

Well, Wednesday is here and Bell is not.

Here's one theory for you: Bell saw Khalil Mack get traded this weekend AND land a huge contract from the Bears and decided it would be in his best interest to stay away from the Steelers for a little bit longer and at least see if they would entertain trading him, or if other teams would contact the Steelers about trying to land Bell. The situation is more complex because Bell isn't under contract, but if two teams hammer out compensation for the trade and the team Bell goes to works out a deal with the running back, he could come in, sign his tender and be shipped out. And it's even more complex because in theory his new team wouldn't be able to work out a contract with him until after the season because of the franchise tag rules. There would have to be a lot of handshake/wink wink agreements going here, perhaps too much for anything to happen. 

Or maybe Bell realizes the Steelers are going to run him into the ground this year and by staying away for one (or more?) games, he can effectively minimize -- by about 50 carries and as much as 70 touches -- the wear and tear on his body for the full season. If he carries the ball 370-400 times this year, teams are going to be more concerned about locking him down on a deal. 

Just some food for thought. 

Whatever the case, Bell's teammates are increasingly pessimistic about him coming in.

Well, Bell's end game is to GET PAID. We know that. Maybe his move here is simple: he knows he cannot get a new contract from the Steelers this offseason and he doesn't want to get beat up. 

Maybe he wants to put the squeeze on the Steelers and force them to play James Conner and Jaylen Samuels. If the offense struggles with Bell out of the lineup, people will absolutely panic over the absence of Bell. Public pressure often dictates how NFL teams behave and while it is pretty unlikely to have a significant effect on what the Steelers do, it won't be fun trotting out a bad offense with the best running back nowhere to be found because the team is declining to pay him. 

Bell might also simply understand if he shows up on late Thursday or Friday or even Saturday, it will be too late for the Steelers to incorporate him into the game plan, meaning they might have to pay him to sit on the sidelines and watch the team play in Week 1. That doesn't sound like a terrible idea either. 

It might be the best of both worlds for Bell.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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