Sources: Tuesday deadline likely to pass without Le'Veon Bell reporting
Even as the Steelers brace to lose their marquee running back for the entire season, Bell's camp continues to maintain its cone of silence and repeatedly has declined to address with reporters his plans for the coming week.
As the team and its fans await Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline, by which Bell must report or be ineligible to play in 2018, it is worth remembering what the Pro Bowl back said in January.
Ten months ago, Bell said he "definitely would consider" sitting out the 2018 season or retiring if the Steelers used the franchise tag on him for a second consecutive season. The Steelers did use the tag, and there are no indications that Bell will report by the deadline.
By sitting out this season, the 26-year-old Bell ostensibly has been trying to preserve his value and body, allowing James Conner (771 yards on 164 carries with 10 touchdowns) to get the work in the Steelers' backfield. Conner, who averages 4.7 yards per carry, is on pace for close to 300 carries, similar to what Bell had last season. It is wear and tear that Bell seemingly did not want to absorb as he gets ready to become a free agent.
Despite Steelers owner Art Rooney telling Sirius XM Radio on Thursday that he expected Bell to report by Tuesday, the running back has skipped every chance he has had to report, including during Pittsburgh's recent bye week, when he could have collected $855,000 just for being on the roster.
Bell did not report hours before the Steelers' Thursday night victory over the Carolina Panthers, when he could have collected another $855,000 for playing in the game. He has bypassed the chance to make more than $8.5 million and could make only $6 million more if he were to report by Tuesday.
By not reporting by Tuesday's deadline, Bell will also forgo approximately $200,000 in benefits that come along with a credited NFL season, sources said.
That figure includes benefits from a pension, an annuity, 401K contributions and a health reimbursement account.
"I don't think it even enters his mind," said one source familiar with the NFL's benefits package. "When you lose a credited and retire, you wish you had it then. But you're not thinking about that now."
But the reason he has been willing to forgo all of this so far is the reason that multiple people do not expect to see Bell this week, or this season, either. And if Bell doesn't report by Tuesday, which is now the belief, then his Steelers career would be over.