It’s hard to imagine that anyone really expected Le’Veon Bell to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday, but that didn’t stop local sports scribes or the national sports media from providing updates throughout the day about his continued absence. If the Steelers’ star running back ever intended to return this week, it was never going to be earlier than Saturday — but now it seems even that might not be happening.
This just in from Steelers source : The Steelers are not expecting Le’Veon Bell to show up this week despite previous reports.— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) October 15, 2018
Given that Bouchette is often used as the team’s mouthpiece when they don’t want to put a name on a press release, it’s safe to assume this piece of information came from someone with knowledge of the situation inside the organization.
The lack of communication that Mike Tomlin has continually noted when asked about Bell during his weekly press conferences is clearly still an issue, and until the absentee running back actually speaks to someone associated with the Steelers, they’re not going to count him in their plans.
Bell hasn’t disputed the report published by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN stating he’d return during the bye-week, but his agent Adisa Bakari reportedly indicated to team officials that they shouldn’t take his client’s words in the press too seriously. As Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes in his report, if Bell really does want to avoid being traded, he would be advised to sit out until after the deadline for doing so has passed on October 30 at 4 p.m.
Le’Veon Bell’s plan was to utilize period between bye week and the Browns game to start to make his return. If not in Pittsburgh by some time next week, perhaps something has changed in his approach.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) October 16, 2018
Also worth noting Bell hadn’t had correspondence with the Steelers over the last few months, unless that’s changed in recent days. He doesn’t necessarily have to update team of his plans.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) October 16, 2018
Considering the trade rumors circulating lately, it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that the prospect of a trade was the factor that caused Bell to have yet another change of heart. Supposedly planning to return to Pittsburgh just before the start of the season, his agent suggested his client altered his plans once he saw the contract offered to Todd Gurley. Sadly, pulling that same stunt again is far from beneath him.
However, with the savings from Bell’s efforts to protect his body for free agency in 2019 closing in on $6 million (if he fails to report in Week 7), and with James Conner breaking records for a Pittsburgh running back through the first six games of his career, a prolonged absence for No. 26 might be a good thing.