Steelers owner on Le'Veon Bell: 'I expect him to be a member of the team going forward'
Bell has been away from the team and has yet to sign his franchise tender
Throughout the entire 2018 season, rumors have swirled that Le'Veon Bell could potentially be done with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bell has remained away from the team for the first seven weeks of the season, electing to sit out rather than play out another full year on the franchise tag.
He's reportedly going to return soon, but the Steelers have not officially heard that from him just yet. In the meantime, potential trade partners for Bell have kept popping up. Steelers owner Art Rooney II, however, does not expect Bell to be traded. Rather, he expects that Bell will play for Pittsburgh this year.
The trade deadline is just nine days away, as of this writing, and there are several teams who could be interested in acquiring Bell between now and then. He cannot be traded unless and until he actually signs his franchise tender, though, so it's possible Bell could wait until after the 4 p.m. October 30 deadline to do so in order to ensure that he is not traded somewhere he doesn't want to go.
The Steelers didn't necessarily expect to be in this position in the first place, as some players were under the impression that Bell was going to report in advance of the Week 1 game against the Browns. When he didn't several offensive linemen spoke out about their frustration with Bell's actions. Since then, though, the team has been tighter-lipped about the situation.
"I think the team has handled it well," Rooney said. "The players have adjusted, just carrying on without him. That's all you can do. But it's early in the season, we have a long way to go. We just have to keep getting better every week. Can't take anything for granted."
While Bell has sat, James Conner has stepped in. And he's played very well, perhaps earning himself a share of the backfield load even after Bell returns. Conner is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and has seven rushing touchdowns, and has also added 26 catches for 257 yards in six games. Rooney, for one, is thrilled about that.
"We've learned that James is a darn good football player," Rooney said. "Happy to have him."
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