Bell, who previously claimed he would return during the Steelers bye week, which they are on right now, did not report to the Steelers on Monday after Pittsburgh toppled the Bengals in a massive divisional victory.
And according to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Bell does not plan to report this week to the Steelers, despite what he previously said.
The next target date for Bell? Monday, Oct. 22, when the work week rolls over and the Steelers begin preparations for their Week 8 divisional matchup against the Browns.
CBS Sportsthe Steelers haven't heard from Bell, and that there is some belief he may wait until after the trade deadline on Tuesday, Oct. 30 to report. Doing so would shut down any opportunity the Steelers have of trading him -- they cannot do so until he signs his franchise tender.
La Canfora also pointed out on the Pick Six Podcast (episode coming Wednesday, subscribe to our DAILY NFL show right here) that should Bell even report before Week 8, the Steelers might want to use a two-week roster exemption on him. That would allow him to get some of the money owed, while also working to get in shape.
Bell previously said he wants to play this season and help win the Steelers a title.
"I miss football," Bell previously told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. "When I do get back, I plan to give it my all. I still do want to go out there and win a Super Bowl with the Steelers."
The biggest obstacle might be the success Pittsburgh's having in the run game. Bell has been extremely replaceable, with former third-round pick (and Pittsburgh folk hero) James Conner stepping in and capably filling Bell's shoes.
You could even make an argument that, if Bell comes back, the Steelers might not consider just sitting him on the bench and paying him not to play. If he maxes out his game of chicken, it's not hard to imagine the Steelers maxing out theirs: Bell has hosed them by not showing up, and they've still managed to galvanize as a locker room and an offense and put together some big wins over the last few weeks.
The Steelersif they find the right partner. And that's still the case. But finding someone who will take on Bell's salary for half a season, without knowing what kind of shape he's in and remaining unsure whether or not Bell will play ball, could be difficult.
So when will Bell actually return? There are two dates to target: next Monday, following the Steelers bye, and the Wednesday after the trade deadline (Halloween!). It's possible Bell could also report the Monday before the trade deadline (Oct. 29) as it might not give the Steelers enough time to actually put something together in terms of a deal -- once he signs his tender, they can ship him elsewhere.
Maybe he rolls in at 4:01 p.m. ET Tuesday, Oct. 30, after the trade deadline has passed. But lock in on those two dates when trying to predict the future of a very unpredictable situation.