Le’Veon Bell provided a template for his offseason plans: a facsimile of last year.
The Pittsburgh Steelers running back, who was franchise tagged again on Tuesday, said on Instagram he won’t report until Week 1, but wouldn’t hold out regular season games.
“Honestly, no, I’m not going to sit out,” Bell said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Joe Rutter. “I’m going to be in the facility Week 1. It’s going to be a rerun of last year. I’m not going to [training] camp. I’m not doing nothing else extra, OTAs, none of that.
“I’m going to strictly go to what I have to go to. I want to win every game. I want to have the best statistical career that I possibly can, so I want to play in every game that I can possibly play.”
Bell worked on the same schedule last offseason, skipping all workouts, and not showing up until Sept. 1 to sign his franchise tag.
The 26-year-old running back trained on his own last season, but not being with the team affected his usage and production early in the season. Bell averaged 60 rushing yards, 18.7 receiving yards, and just one TD through the first three weeks.
The Steelers would like to avoid a repeat of last season, but they’re preparing for Bell to play on the franchise tag. On Wednesday, the Steelers restructured Antonio Brown’s contract, freeing up $9.7 million in salary cap space. The move should be viewed as Pittsburgh bracing for Bell to play on the tag. As NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport points out, moving around Brown’s money could help the Steelers handle the $14.554 franchise tender.
Neither Bell nor the Steelers seems willing to bend on their stance. Bell wants to reshape how running backs are viewed; Pittsburgh doesn’t want to destroy the bank for a running back who has a suspension history.
“I’m a guy who has to stand firm at what I really feel I’m valued at so the running back market can be where it needs to be,” Bell said. “Running back is an important position. On average, we have the shortest shelf life.
“I think the fact people do say that, we have to get everything we can when we are in the prime of our career because we don’t play as long so we don’t make as much money. Running backs need that respect, there’s no ifs, ands and buts about it.”
Unless someone surprisingly blinks, don’t expect to see Bell at the Steelers‘ facility until opening week once again.
“Hopefully, when it comes down to it, we won’t have to deal with [sitting out],” Bell said. “We’ll get a deal done. That’s the biggest thing. We want to get a deal done. … If not, I’ll handle it from there, but I definitely won’t be in camp. It’s basically a rerun of last year.”