Le'Veon Bell is one of the league's most dynamic players. He rushed for 1,291 yards last season to go along with 655 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Because of that versatility, Bell wants to be paid like more than just a running back -- he wants to be paid like a running back and a pass catcher.
This makes sense on some level, but Bell's reported asking price is so steep that it's almost impossible to think that the Steelers would consider it.
"Everybody associated with this has said that the Steelers want to do a long-term deal," NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala said from the owners meetings in Orlando, Florida. "In fact, I spoke to (head coach) Mike Tomlin earlier today and he said, 'Everybody knows we're in the business of trying to lock him up for the rest of his career.' However, as (general manager) Kevin Colbert ... told the local media, there's no urgency right now, and here's why: Le'Veon Bell wants $17 million a year.
"He wants to be paid exactly like Antonio Brown is paid. So the Steelers are saying, 'Well, we're going to wait a little while before we address that fully because clearly the Steelers don't feel that that's where Bell's value is."
And it's hard to imagine that any of the other 32 teams feel differently -- though, as the old saying goes, it only takes one. For some perspective, consider this: Bell was the NFL's highest-paid running back last season when he earned $12.1 million on the franchise tag, $3.9 million more (in average annual salary) than Devonta Freeman, who was second on that list. Bell, who was franchised again this offseason, is set to make $14.5 million in 2018, which is $6.2 million -- or 75 percent -- more than Freeman's salary.
That's insane, even given Bell's talents.
Also worth noting: for as good as Bell is, he ranked No. 5 in total value among all running backs last season, according to Football Outsiders, behind Dion Lewis (who just signed a four-year, $19.8 million deal with the Titans), Todd Gurley, Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt. Kamara and Hunt, by the way, were rookie third-round picks who earned $465,000 last season.
The point: Teams can find outstanding running backs for substantially less than the $8.25 million Freeman earns, never mind what Bell is looking for. This may explain why the Steelers, who reportedly offered Bell last summer a long-term deal worth $12 million annually, are exploring other options even as they insist they want to keep the running back in Pittsburgh.
The team reportedly plans to meet sometime next week with LSU running back Derrius Guice, a potential first-round pick.
Meanwhile, Bell has no plans to join the Steelers until after the preseason.
"I'm not going to sit out," he said earlier this month during a live chat on Instagram. "I'm going to be in the facility Week 1. It's going to be a rerun of last year. I'm not going to (training) camp. I'm not doing nothing else extra, OTAs, none of that. I'm going to strictly go to what I have to go to. I want to win every game. I want to have the best statistical career that I possibly can, so I want to play in every game that I can possibly play."
And if Bell doesn't budge on his contract demands, he'll again play under the franchise tag -- this time for $14.5 million -- and then will earn considerably less than that in 2019, whether that's in Pittsburgh or elsewhere.