Appearing at the Hampton Roads Youth Foundation football camp over the weekend, Tomlin told WAVY Channel 10 that he would like the Steelers to sign Bell to a long-term contract before Monday's 4 p.m. ET deadline.
"Obviously, we want to get a deal done, he wants to get a deal done. Everybody has said that," said Tomlin, who returns to his hometown of Hampton, Virginia, every summer for the camp. "Now it's just about the negotiators getting into a room and doing what it is they need to do. I'm excited and hopeful. Hopefully we'll have some exciting news before Monday."
Despite Tomlin's confidence, it will be challenging for the two sides to reach a long-term contract agreement, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter. The Steelers and Bell will continue talking and trying, but they are not close to a deal at this time.
Tomlin expressed similar optimism before last year's deadline, when the Steelers failed to sign Bell and didn't see him until training camp ended. Bell signed his $12.12 million tag on Sept. 4.
As the Steelers and Bell are pressed against the deadline for the second straight year, the running back is prepared to play on this year's tag -- worth $14.5 million -- in the absence of what he considers a fair deal.
Bell told ESPN this offseason that he won't sign an extension offer worth less than the tag number on an annual basis. Talks stalled in the spring after Bell turned down an offer, but the sides reopened negotiations over the past week.
Bell started slowly in 2017 but finished with 1,291 rushing yards on 321 carries, 655 receiving yards on 85 catches and 11 total touchdowns. The performance earned him All-Pro status. His 7,996 yards from scrimmage are the most in a player's first five seasons since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.
The Steelers report to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, for training camp on July 25. Teammates are used to life with Bell -- who has used boxing and a vegan diet this offseason to stay in shape -- holding off from most football exercises to keep his knees fresh.
Guard David DeCastro said he expects a similar script with Bell -- no deal, no training camp -- but is looking forward to his eventual return.