PITTSBURGH -- The Le'Veon Bell waiting game has forced coach Mike Tomlin into about his 16th "no comment" and left Pittsburgh Steelers players getting a bit restless answering questions about the star back's absence.
At least Bell, thanks to social media, has given the team an informal target date for signing his $12.1 million franchise tender and getting back to work.
But from his locker, center Maurkice Pouncey took a deeper look at why Bell is gone and why he fully supports the absence. In fact, Pouncey said he would do the exact same thing.
Here's what he had to say:
On respecting Bell's decision: "People catch feelings about certain things. I think anybody in his situation would do the same exact thing. I would. We'll see how things turn out. I'm pretty sure he'll come in here and ball out like normal, things that Le'Veon does in the pass game and the running game."
On Bell deserving a long-term deal: "There's a business part. At the end of the day, it doesn't look like it on [the team executives'] side because they sit up there in the office every single day. As a player, you try to go out there and get as much as you can. Especially with the things that Le'Veon has been through and the production he's put on the football field, he deserves a big-time contract. Who in the NFL wouldn't say that? At the end of the day, it's a business. That's why the Steelers are one of the greatest organizations in all of football. They know what they are doing upstairs. No one down here questions it."
On whether Bell's holdout is a fight for the hybrid RB/WR market: "Maybe he's trying to change things for his position, guys that come out of the backfield and play multiple positions like that. Maybe he's trying to show them that, 'Hey, these guys should be paid a lot more if they can do the things that I do.'"
Bell’s intentions: "Trust me, L. Bell wants to be here. He wants to be a football player, he wants to be the best running back in the NFL. At the same time, it's business. ... The fans don't [understand]. But we do."
This last line partly explains why Steelers players haven't publicly ripped Bell for missing all of August.
Of course, the Steelers did try to sign Bell to a long-term deal believed to be worth around $12 million per year.
But since that's irrelevant now, Pouncey understands the bigger play -- Bell positioning himself for 2018 and beyond.