The Steelers still have yet to hear anything from Le'Veon Bell or his agent about if or when the running back plans to sign his franchise tag and report, sources said, and the team remains hopeful of trading the star.
Bell has hinted in media reports about reporting to the Steelers in Week 7 or Week 8, but has conveyed nothing to the team about any such plans. At one point his agent, Adisa Bakari, told Steelers officials not to read much into the reports of a possible Week 7 appearance, and the Steelers continue to operate as if the former Pro Bowler will not be a part of their plans.
Some in the organization believe that Bell is most likely to sign the tag a week from Tuesday – after the 4 p.m. trade deadline passes. Bell cannot be officially traded without a signed contract. However, the Steelers will continue efforts to move him prior to the deadline, with the thinking that Bell would only further de-value himself to other NFL teams as a free agent if he not only skipped half of Pittsburgh's season, but also scuttled a potential trade.
Bell has had very limited communication with any Steelers – even his teammates – and concerns persist about whether he would be welcomed back in the Pittsburgh locker room. Ben Roethlisberger's strong comments of support for running back James Conner did not go unnoticed by upper management and the team has been rallying around the young running back in Bell's absence, finally emphasizing the run again recently.
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The market for Bell has been slow to form, league sources said. The Jets and 49ers expressed initial interest but then quickly backed off, and the Eagles had the most contact with the Steelers about Bell early in the process, but have also shifted to explore trades for LeSean McCoy and others. There is a hope within the Steelers' organization that the Eagles jump back in; they could likely get Bell for a third-round pick, I'm told, while it would take significantly more to acquire McCoy.
If Bell were to report on Tuesday of this week – with the Steelers on their bye – the team would implement a two-week roster exemption for him, with no intention of paying him for the bye week. That would have to be negotiated with his agent before his return could become official. Showing back up to work while his teammates are heading out after playing roughly half of their season wouldn't do much to further endear him to them.