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Diagnosing who holds the leverage in the Steelers and Le’Veon Bell contract negotiations

The Pittsburgh Steelers want to retain Le’Veon Bell, and Bell likely wants to stay in Pittsburgh, but who holds the chips in these negotiations?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers-Training Camp Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

July 17 is slowly creeping up, and for Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, he has to have this date circled in bright red marker on his calendar. Why? This is the last possible date the All-Pro running back can come to terms on a deal with the Steelers.

But will a deal get done?

Will Bell sign his franchise tender and play in 2017 for just north of $12 million dollars?

Or will Bell sit out?

Jeff Darlington recently discussed the most likely outcome on ESPN talking about Bell’s situation, and what he has to say about leverage is certainly noteworthy.

“He is the one guy left. All the other franchise guys have signed their tenders, three of them can still go after that long-term deal, but he is the one guy who still hasn’t signed that tender. Personally, I think it is going to be one of those deadline signings we see, and ultimately Bell, right now, has the leverage. He feels okay with everything that is going down.

Bell right now does hold the leverage. He would get paid $12.1 million dollars if he does sign that tag. I, personally, do think he will get a deal done, but I think it is the Steelers, right now, who are sweating...not Bell.”

Darlington spoke about Bell’s agent, who also represented Matt Forte when he was in a near identical situation as Bell, and the playbook which was written then is for the player to not sign the tender, and get a favorable deal done before the clock strikes midnight.

It is tough to disagree with Darlington, but I find it hard to believe the Steelers have zero leverage in this situation. Sure, they don’t hold the majority of the leverage, but they do carry some. It was the Steelers who have stuck behind Bell throughout two suspensions and multiple injuries.

Ultimately, it comes down to the two sides finding a middle ground which fits Bell’s needs, and the Steelers’ franchise tag number for 2017, and beyond.

Will they get a deal done? There is a good chance, but don’t be stunned if this thing lingers well beyond the July 17th deadline.