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Report: Le’Veon Bell will not rejoin Steelers by Tuesday deadline

Joe Rutter
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell carries for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Ravens Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017, at Heinz Field.

Le’Veon Bell apparently has decided against reporting to the Pittsburgh Steelers by 4 p.m. Tuesday, meaning he plans to miss the rest of the 2018 season, ESPN reported Saturday night.

Bell returned to Pittsburgh this week after spending much of the year in Miami, but barring a change of heart, he has played his final down with the team. The ESPN report cited multiple unnamed league sources.

On Thursday, Bell removed all references to the Steelers from his social media pages, an indication he would not be rejoining the team.

If Bell doesn’t report to the Steelers and sign his franchise-tag tender by 4 p.m. Tuesday, he must sit out the remainder of the season, per NFL rules.

Bell will become an unrestricted free agent in March unless the Steelers decide to use the franchise tag a third time, which would cost more than $25 million, or use the more cost-efficient transition tag.

Under the transition tag, Bell would be free to negotiate a contract with any other NFL team, and the Steelers would have the right to match any offer the running back receives.

The more likely scenario is the Steelers would allow Bell to leave via free agency, in which case they would receive a compensatory draft pick in 2020.

The Steelers offered Bell a $14.544 million tender in March, but he has refused to sign it and already has forfeited $8.55 million in salary by staying away from the team.

When Bell returned to Pittsburgh last week, it was an indication he planned to finish the season with the Steelers. But he would do so at a risk of injury that would potentially limit his negotiating power in free agency.

The Steelers have thrived in Bell’s absence, winning five games in a row to take a 6-2-1 record that is tops in the AFC North.

Bell’s replacement, former Pitt star James Conner, has 771 yards rushing and 387 receiving through nine games.

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at [email protected] or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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