It was described as a preliminary conversation with no offer, one source said. The Steelers are willing to trade Bell, as ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday.
The Jets are known for performing due diligence whenever a high-profile player becomes available. Most times it amounts to nothing more than a passing interest -- such was the case with wide receiver Josh Gordon -- but they did make an offer three weeks ago for pass-rusher Khalil Mack.
A Bell trade would be challenging because he'd be a one-year rental, essentially. Based on the franchise tag rules, he can't sign a long-term contract (with the Steelers or another team) until after the season.
The Jets have been linked to Bell because they're one of a handful of teams that have enough cap room to absorb his 2018 salary. At this point, that figure is $11.9 million.
Bell's franchise tag was $14.5 million, but he has forfeited $2.6 million by refusing to sign the tender and sitting out three games.
The Jets have approximately $17 million in cap space. Their 2019 figure is projected at $90 million, when they could make a run at Bell as a free agent.
The front office is trying to rebuild the roster in a methodical fashion and it may be averse to taking a win-now plunge for a player who could be gone in a few months.
Right now, the Jets are relying on two veterans in the backfield, Isaiah Crowell (171 rushing yards, four touchdowns) and Bilal Powell (139 yards, one receiving touchdown). Second-year back Elijah McGuire, recovering from a broken foot, is expected to come off injured reserve after the eighth game.
Powell, who turns 30 on Oct. 27, will be a free agent after the season. Crowell signed a three-year, $12 million contract in March, but it includes no guaranteed money after this season.
The trading deadline is Oct. 30.
The New York Daily News first reported that the Jets reached out to the Steelers.