The Pittsburgh Steelers have gone from taking calls on holdout running back Le’Veon Bell to making them, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The Steelers have yet to receive an acceptable offer for Bell, who has refused to report to the team or sign his franchise tender after getting tagged for the second consecutive offseason.
With the trade deadline just a month away, the Steelers are now contacting teams and letting them know they want a second-round pick and a “good” player in return for Bell, per the report.
Bell ended his 2017 holdout before the regular season, but it remains unclear if or when he’ll join the Steelers this season. He would have to sign the franchise tender before any team could trade for him.
Any trade of Bell would have to come before the Oct. 30 deadline, and the acquiring team would have to take on significant salary. Bell is currently owed approximately $11 million for the rest of 2018, after forfeiting approximately $3.4 million ($853K per game) for missing the Steelers’ first four games.
An acquiring team also would not be assured of keeping Bell long-term. Bell is not allowed to sign a contract extension with any team until after the season, and at that point, he could simply choose to hit free agency. It’s unlikely any team would use the franchise tag on Bell, as it would cost around $18 million if used a third straight time on him.
In Bell’s absence, the Steelers have turned to second-year back James Conner, who has 213 yards rushing on 54 carries, with three touchdowns. Conner also has 15 catches for 139 yards.
In his five seasons in Pittsburgh, Bell has had at least 1,200 yards rushing and 600 receiving yards three times. He is a two-time first-team All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler.
But his contract squabbles with the club have become an annual offseason ritual. After not signing under the franchise tag until Sept. 4 last season, Bell averaged fewer than 3.5 yards per carry through the first three weeks. But he finished 2017 with a league-high 321 carries for 1,291 yards along with 85 catches for 655 yards and 11 total touchdowns.
—Field Level Media