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It turns out Bell’s absence was the final straw for the franchise. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert issued a statement Monday expressing disappointment in Bell’s decision.
“We are disappointed Le’Veon Bell has not signed his franchise tender and rejoined his teammates,” the statement read. “Coach Tomlin and the coaching staff will continue to focus on preparing the players on our roster for our regular season opener on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.”
Bell, 26, has held out of all offseason activities after being franchise-tagged for the second straight season. He reported to the franchise on Labor Day last year following a similar holdout.
The Steelers will likely turn to backup James Conner unless Bell shows up to practice in the days prior to Sunday’s season opener against the Cleveland Browns. Bell rushed for 32 yards on 10 carries in Week 1 last year.
There is no financial incentive to continue his holdout. Bell and the Steelers cannot negotiate a new contract because the deadline for franchised players has passed. There’s also no scenario in which the Steelers are going to drop the tag, so he’s essentially forfeiting game checks if he continues to sit out.
Bell is scheduled to make $14.5 million in 2018. Every game he misses will cost him a game check worth about $900,000.
In July, Bell tweeted out a statement promising to make 2018 his “best season to date.” The Steelers and their Pro Bowl running back are expected to part ways after the season.