Report: Le’Veon Bell to return to Steelers during bye week
After staying away from the Pittsburgh Steelers to preserve his body for a big contract, running back Le’Veon Bell could return to the team on the week when no players will be getting hit in a game.
Citing a source, ESPN reported Monday that Bell will join the Steelers during their bye, which starts after they play the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 14.
Bell already has forfeited $3.42 million of his $14.544 million franchise-tag tender by not reporting to the team. If he doesn’t report until after Week 6, the lost income will reach $5.13 million.
“It (stinks) having to sit out football,” Bell told ESPN. “I want to play. I want to win games and the playoffs. But I’ve gotta take this stand. Knowing my worth and knowing I can tear a ligament or get surgery at any time, I knew I couldn’t play 16 games with 400 or more touches.”
Bell is staying away in order to minimize his risk of injury that could derail a long-term contract in the offseason. He wants to be paid similar to Todd Gurley, who has $45 million guaranteed under his new contract, and David Johnson, whose guaranteed money is nearly $32 million.
Bell reportedly rejected a $70 million offer from the Steelers that included $19 million in guarantees. According to ESPN, Bell likened the offer to “monopoly money.”
“I know the guaranteed money will be there (in March),” Bell said. “If a team wanted to, they could definitely do what they needed to do to make me happy and satisfied.”
Several teams have called the Steelers asking about Bell’s availability in a trade. Holding up any trade is the fact Bell would have to sign the franchise-tag tender and then report to that team as a rental for the rest of the season. He would become eligible for free agency in March. The trade deadline is Oct. 30.
Bell told ESPN he still hopes to play with the Steelers beyond this season.
“I could be naïve or hopeful, but at the end of the day I feel like that’s what’s going to happen,” Bell said. “I don’t think they really want me gone. That could be me being prideful. But I’m still holding out hope.”
Without Bell, the Steelers are ranked No. 28 in rushing offense. His replacement, James Conner, had 135 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the opening week, but he has gained a combined 97 yards on 32 carries in the past three games.