Le'Veon Bell reportedly told Steelers' O-line he would report last week; RB could skip 4-6 games
Some Steelers officials expect Bell to miss at least a month of the regular season
Le'Veon Bell passed on his $855,000 game check this week to extend a holdout that just about everyone thought would end with the final preseason game. As it stands, it's unclear when he'll rejoin the Steelers because one of the league's most dynamic players wants to be paid like a running back and a receiver -- he rushed for 1,291 yards and caught 85 passes last season. But Bell reportedly turned down contracts the last two offseasons that would have made him the NFL's highest-paid back.
Player holdouts are nothing new, of course, but what makes Bell's case different is that his teammates appeared genuinely shocked that he didn't return to Pittsburgh last week. And that -- not that Bell thinks he's underpaid -- is why the Steelers locker room reacted the way it did when Bell no-showed.
"Honestly it's a little selfish," center Maurkice Pouncey told reporters on Wednesday. "I'm kind of pissed right now. It sucks that he's not here. We'll move on as a team. It doesn't look like he'll be in the game plan at this point (for Week 1). (Second-year running back James) Conner looks great. We'll worry about (Bell) in Week 2."
Guard Ramon Foster added: "What do you do? Here's a guy who doesn't give a damn, I guess so we'll treat it as such. I just hate it came to this. ... He's making seven times what I make twice as much as Al (Villanueva) is making and we're the guys who do it for him."
To reiterate: This isn't about "messing with Bell's money," which is what we heard from some former players, this is about the perception among some of his teammates that Bell is being selfish. NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala broke this down to former players Mike Robinson and Reggie Bush over the weekend:
For the record, I support Bell's cause. I hope every player makes as much money as they can. I've always been that way and nothing has changed. However, I do understand where the Steelers offensive linemen are coming from.
If you're asking, or expected the Steelers offensive line to publicly support Bell's absence from the team, you're essentially asking them to support Bell's absence so he can be healthy for another team in 2019. That's unrealistic to expect any teammate to support that.
So the Steelers are moving forward with 2017 third-round pick James Conner.
Meanwhile, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported on "The NFL Today" that the Steelers are bracing for a lengthy absence from Bell, adding that there is no indication when he plans to sign the franchise tender. Some team officials told La Canfora that they expect the running back will skip 4-6 games to reduce his risk of injury.
Bell will continue to lose $855,000 for every week he sits out, and he could be down as much as $8.5 million should he skip the first 10 games. After that he'll need to report to still be eligible for free agency next March.
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