Steelers player on Le'Veon Bell's holdout: 'Nobody cares ... we'll see him when we see him'
Bell is one of the NFL's best players and he's looking for a new long-term deal
Le'Veon Bell is one of the NFL's most dynamic players, which explains why he was the league's highest-paid running back last season when he made $12.1 million on his one-year franchise tender. It also explains why he'll again be the league's highest-paid back in '18, as soon as he signs his latest franchise tender, which will earn him $14.5 million.
The thing is, Bell is reportedly looking for a deal that pays him closer to $17 million annually, which is Antonio Brown money. Running backs, even those as versatile as Bell, don't command those types of contracts. And that's why Bell, for the second-straight offseason, is at home, where he plans to stay right up until the start of the season -- unless he and the Steelers can reach an agreement on a new long-term deal.
For Bell's teammates, his absence isn't a distraction. Far from it, in fact.
"I think last year a lot of guys were like, 'Oh, Le'Veon's not here,'" veteran wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey told ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler recently. "Nobody cares. We're out here and we have to get work done. ... We'll see him when we see him. Next man up."
Those next men include second-year back James Conner, who had just 32 carries last season before he was sidelined with a knee injury, veteran Stevan Ridley and rookie fifth-round pick Jaylen Samuels, a jack-of-all-trades at NC State where he had 75 receptions, 75 rushing attempts and 16 combined touchdowns during his senior season.
Put another way: Life goes on without Le'Veon. "If he comes, he comes," said linebacker Bud Dupree. "If he don't come, he don't come. We're still going to keep rolling and keep getting better. The team can't stop."
In May, Brown threw his support behind Bell but added that "the first rule of getting better is showing up."
Meanwhile, veteran safety Morgan Burnett, who signed with Pittsburgh this offseason, knows that Bell has a small window to earn a big-time contract.
"You definitely understand, because it's definitely a business," Burnett said. "Within your career, it seems long but it's only a short period of your life. So the stuff you accomplish, the money you make within this time, you want to find a way to make it expand the rest of your life."
Bell has told ESPN.com that he won't settle for less than the average payout of $14.5 million per year on an extension, which means that the Steelers and one of their best players could part ways after the 2018 season.
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