The Steelers are beginning preparations for their Week 1 opener against Cleveland without All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell, and they're letting the world know they're not thrilled about it.
Bell is yet to sign his $14.54m franchise-tag for this season with him standing to lose money, around $853,000, for every game he misses.
Although the team expected Bell to skip training camp after he didn't get the long-term contract he wanted in July, the Steelers were blindsided when Bell made a decision to skip the team's first practice of Week 1 on Monday.
"We are disappointed Bell has not signed his franchise tender and rejoined his team-mates", Colbert said in a statement. Yes, it would on one hand make sense for Bell to play all 16 games and be a beast in the interest of earning a massive contract next offseason. It will be interesting to see how Bell's situation plays out, though, as it's no secret he's unhappy with his contract. Could be a week, as it was a year ago.
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The 21-year-old is now considering his future and the real opportunity to move away and earn some pitch time which wouldn't be possible in Madrid .
Bell's continued holdout means the Steelers will likely have to rely on backup running back James Conner unless he resurfaces in the coming days (before the Steelers' opener against the Cleveland Browns). "I trust James", he said. Following an uneven rookie season in which he dealt with various health concerns - including a knee injury in December that landed him on injured reserve - Conner's rise over the spring and summer left his teammates confident and his head coach impressed.
"James", the Steelers coach said Tuesday. "We put him in the backseat, strap him in and be ready to go". He recorded 1,291 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in 2017.
Conner tweaked his hamstring on the first day of rookie minicamp shortly after being selected and only showed flashes of the player who ran for 3,733 yards and found the end zone 56 times for the Panthers. Of course, the Bengals also employ wide receiver and seven-time Pro Bowl selection A.J. Green, who caught 75 passes for 1,078 yards last season. Now he finds himself atop the depth chart until Bell arrives.