The ongoing sentiment of the majority of fans who read BTSC is the Pittsburgh Steelers would be better off just letting Le’Veon Bell test the free agent waters, save money, and prepare the defense for a Super Bowl run in 2018-2019.
Whether you agree or disagree with this way of thinking, the Steelers organization is not on board with this way of thinking.
General Manger Kevin Colbert, as well as team president Art Rooney II, have both stated publicly their goals of signing Bell to a long-term deal, and when Colbert answered questions at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, he continued to say just that.
Per Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network:
#Steelers GM Kevin Colbert says yes, team is in midst of conversations w/ Le’Veon Bell. When I ask if in realm of possibility deal is done before 3/6 franchise tag deadline, he says, “We hope so.”— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) February 28, 2018
GM Kevin Colbert won’t use word “close” re Steelers coming to a long term deal w/ Le’Veon Bell, but says, “I’m optimistic that we can find common ground.”— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) February 28, 2018
So, to recap, the Steelers and Bell’s team are talking, they hope to get a deal done before the March 6th deadline to franchise tag a player, and Colbert hopes the two parties can find “common ground”.
The “common ground” comment strikes me as very telling. This would mean the two sides negotiating still have to find some sort of middle ground. In other words, the Steelers have their number, and Bell’s team has theirs. The two must not be that close, and the thought of Bell taking less money to stay in Pittsburgh doesn’t seem likely after he turned down what seemed to be a very fair deal before the 2017 season.
Barring a new deal getting done, the Steelers will have to choose between placing the franchise tag on Bell, or letting him test free agency. I would put a lot of money down the team would place the tag on Bell, in hopes of the two sides continuing their work on getting a new contract done before the deadline.
In the meantime, we wait and see what transpires over the next few weeks with these difficult contract negotiations. Throughout it all, fans will continue to debate whether the team should, or shouldn’t, retain Bell’s services for 2018 and beyond.