The Steelers want to keep Le’Veon Bell. Le’Veon Bell has said he wants to be a Steeler for life. And now advocating for both sides is Hall-of-Fame former Steeler Jerome Bettis, who said, “Neither one of you are as good by yourself as you are together.”
The Steelers franchise-tagged Bell in March
In January, Bell, threatened to sit out or even retire if he received the franchise tag instead of a long-term deal from the Steelers. But a few months later, when he was indeed franchise-tagged, his tone shifted dramatically. In an Instagram Live video, he said, “I am not going to sit out. I am going to be in the facility Week 1.”
This is the second straight year Bell, 26, has received the one-year tag, and it’s not entirely clear if that means Bell will sit out training camp, as he did last season. “It’s just a re-run of last year,” he said in the Instagram video. Bell, along with two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger and All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, skipped the team’s optional organized team activities in late May and early June.
The Steelers and Bell have until 4:00 p.m. ET on July 16 to reach a contract agreement. If they do not meet that deadline, the two can come together again following the regular season to negotiate until late February. If the Steelers wish to franchise tag Bell a third time, they would have to use the quarterback franchise tender, which would pay Bell $25 million in 2019.
Bettis wants Bell in Pittsburgh for the long haul: ‘He’s the ultimate mismatch’
Speaking with TMZ on Tuesday, Bettis urged the two sides to come together because they both need one other.
Le’Veon, you’re not going to be as good going somewhere else because they’re not going to have the offensive line, they’re not going to have the quarterback, the receivers that they have in Pittsburgh.
You have a full complement around you that allows you to be as great as you want to be.
Bettis is the NFL’s seventh all-time leading rusher, and he spent a decade in Pittsburgh, winning a title in his final year, 2005.
The Steelers have an uncertain future
To say the Steelers’ window is closing might be unfair, but it’s certainly not as open as it was when Bell broke into the league in 2013. Roethlisberger is 36 and has talked about retirement in offseasons past. Brown, 29, is locked up through 2021 on a four-year, $68-million extension that he signed last offseason. The third member of that star-studded trio, Bell, will earn $14.5 million this year, making him the highest-paid running back in the NFL. But he reportedly wants to be paid $17 million per year, the same number as Brown.
Bell has been one of the league’s premiere backs since he entered the league in 2013. He has rushed for at least 1,000 yards in three of the past four seasons, only failing to hit that milestone in 2015 when he got hurt. He is one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers as both a runner and a pass-catcher, as his 160 receptions over the past two seasons are by far the most among running backs.
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Dwight Howard reportedly headed to the Washington Wizards
• Ex-OSU wrestlers accuse Ohio congressman of knowing of sexual abuse
• Japanese team leaves World Cup dressing room spotless even after loss
• Chargers OT says NFL needs guaranteed contracts