The Steelers will not be formally discussing Le'Veon Bell's contract situation until after the season, but it's seen as a foregone conclusion that they will be applying the franchise tag on the All-Pro for a second straight year, league sources said.
The sides cannot begin to discuss a new deal until after the season -- as per the rules regarding players on the franchise tag -- but Bell, who wanted $16 million a year before the season began, is only going to seek at least that much now, coming off a stellar, and injury-free, 2017. And the team was already willing to pay Bell more than the franchise tag in the first two years of the lucrative offer they extended to Bell last summer, and already have the cap space and wherewithal to absorb the $14.54 million cap hit for Bell that would be required for 2018.
Bell's import to the team is not lost on the Steelers, and, after going through this process a year ago, they are prepared to do the same this year. A deal, if one is struck, would likely come close to the July deadline to sign a franchise player to a long-term deal. Bell's demands could make that unfeasible, though the franchise did go to greater lengths financially a year ago than many expected.
Bell is seeking a deal in line with the massive extension Adrian Peterson signed with the Vikings years ago, which quickly turned out to be an outlier as the market for running backs constricted since.