They've heard similar things before, but this time it's set in stone: Pittsburgh Steelers, who runs Le'Veon Bell back, has to report to the team by 13 November if he wants to play this season.
So much for the rumors last month that he'd be reporting about the time of the Team Bye report and playing Week 8, or that the Steelers would try to trade him, or that he would report after the close of business in Pittsburgh. The ninth week is almost on the books, and Bell has shown that he would rather go ahead than sign the franchise tag. And while he waits, the Steelers continue to play well and win their fourth straight win on Sunday, this time in Baltimore.
"We have not focused much on the essentials [Bell’s absence] because it is not under our control. These choices are Le'Veons Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin told Dianna Russini of ESPN, "We need volunteers, not hostages."
James Conner is one of those "volunteers" who rush to 743 yards and score nine touchdowns in the absence of Bell. "Nothing against James, the running of football is an 11-man job," said Tomlin. "We believe in our offensive line. They do a great job opening holes for him. But at James's credit, he runs, catches, blocks, and does all the things we demand from our feature runner. "
As the Steelers improved to 5-2-1, Bell declined his time in Miami, instead of signing the franchise day for a second season. The team could still put the transitional label on Bell after the season. This is a step that could correspond to a Bell offer sheet that Bell receives from another team. That would be between $ 9 million and $ 10 million, far less than its unsigned $ 14.5 million franchise day.
If he is to play at all this season, he must report by 13th November when the 11th week officially starts. Each week that is unsigned with the franchise tag costs Bell another $ 855,000.
When Bell decides to return, Steelers players said they would turn to Tomlin for clues as to how they should behave.
"It's his personal fight," Alejandro Villanueva said last week. "Nobody can really understand what he's going through. At the same time we play football, we try to win, we have the chance to be a really good team this year. Anything that is counterproductive to players seems to be a bit of a waste of time. "
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