Despite previous reports suggesting that Le’Veon Bell would end his holdout and return to the Pittsburgh Steelers during their Bye Week 7 (hint: that’s this week), a new report from Adam Schefter says that will no longer be happening.
The Steelers don’t play again until an October 28 matchup against the Cleveland Browns, but it appears Bell won’t be suiting up for that one unless something drastically changes between now and then. ESPN previously cited “a source” when they reported that Bell would return in “Week 7 or 8.” If he doesn’t return by Week 11, he risks losing the entire year of service time on his current contract, which would jeopardize his free agent status next offseason.
Bell is losing approximately $850,000 for every game he doesn’t play, as he has refused to sign the franchise tender after the Steelers tagged him for the second year in a row. He wants a long term contract comparable to other top running backs in the league, which the Steelers have refused to offer.
The Steelers still expect him back eventually, though. Just check out this joke from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who quipped about Bell’s backup James Conners playing his final game for the team.
Ben Roethlisberger on James Conner, in jest: “What a great game, but I know it’s his last game for us, because Le’Veon’s coming back.” pic.twitter.com/roOcMoEW7c
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) October 14, 2018
Conners has been a very serviceable replacement for Bell, rushing for 453-yards and seven touchdowns so far in six weeks. But Bell is undoubtedly one of the most potent offensive weapons in all of football, both as a running back and a player who is capable of catching short passes and turning them into big plays. Bell has been quite vocal about his desire to preserve his health as he enters free agency, which is the reason for the holdout. Even if he missed ten games (and $8.5 million in salary) this season, he will more than make up for it when he inevitably signs one of the biggest running back contracts in NFL history next summer.