Whatever the reasons Le’Veon Bell ultimately decided not to sign his franchise tender with the Pittsburgh Steelers and instead sit out the entire 2018 season, lack of effort on the part of his former quarterback isn’t among them.
Ben Roethlisberger revealed Wednesday that he texted Bell ahead of the Tuesday deadline for Bell to sign his $14.5 million tender or sit out the season, but never heard back from the running back.
“I texted him yesterday before the deadline asking him — texted — saying I was hoping he was going to show up, and if he decided not to I wish him nothing but the best,” Roethlisberger told reporters at his locker. “He was a great teammate and football player. To each their own on what they want to walk away from.”
When asked whether he could ever see himself missing a season of football while in his prime, Roethlisberger said, “It would be tough. ... Part of the great thing about this sport is this band of brothers, this group of guys in here. Being with them is kind of what keeps me coming back here, just so many years, too. But like I said, to each their own. Each guy has their own motives and motivations and I can’t comment on him.
“I am glad that we won’t talk about this anymore, though.”
Bell is now set to hit free agency in March. The Steelers are unlikely to tag him for a third consecutive year, which would cost more than $20 million, but some reports have said they plan to use the transition tag, which would cost around $10 million while allowing Pittsburgh to match any offer Bell gets from another team.
A three-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time first-team All-Pro, Bell is the first player to sit out an entire season on the franchise tag since Washington Redskins defensive lineman Sean Gilbert in 1997. Gilbert cashed in with a seven-year, $46.5 million contract the following offseason with the Carolina Panthers, for whom he played five seasons and tallied 15.5 sacks in 64 games.
The Steelers will move forward with second-year back James Conner as the starter. Conner, who is currently in the concussion protocol, has 771 yards (4.7 average) and 10 scores on the ground this season, along with 39 catches for 387 yards and a score. Those totals look favorable compared to Bell’s output through nine games in 2017: 840 yards (3.8 average) and five touchdowns on the ground, 40 catches for 251 yards and no touchdowns.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he expects Conner to be cleared from the concussion protocol by Wednesday, allowing him to play at the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
—Field Level Media