Le'Veon Bell has not had contact with the Pittsburgh Steelers this week, sources tell ESPN, and barring an unforeseen development in the next few days, is not expected to report to the team in time for Thursday night's game against the Panthers, increasing the possibility that the star running back will not play at all this season.
Bell faces a deadline of Nov. 13 to report in order to play at all this season. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Bell must report to the Steelers by 4 p.m. ET next Tuesday or he will be ineligible for the remainder of the season, a source confirmed to ESPN.
The collective bargaining agreement mandates that any player on a contract or on a tender must report by the Tuesday after the 10th week of the season if he wants to play that year.
But one source pointed out to ESPN that it "doesn't make any sense for [Bell] to play now."
"If he doesn't want to play for $14.5 million, why would he want to play for $5 million?" the source told ESPN, referring to the prorated balance remaining on Bell's $14.5 million franchise tender.
Bell told ESPN in early October that he is staying away to preserve his long-term health for his next contract but intends to play football this season. Bell has been working out in Miami this season, but on Monday he tweeted "Fairwell Miami" without further explanation.
But despite Bell's tweet, the Steelers still haven't heard from him and their focus remains the same with the players and coaches in the building as they prepare for Thursday's game vs. Carolina, a source told ESPN.
Bell said the Steelers told him they plan to place the transition tag on him this offseason, and a source confirmed to ESPN that the tag would be worth approximately $9 million to $10 million.
The transition tag would allow Bell to negotiate with other teams and allow the Steelers to match any offer. If the Steelers match, regardless of the offer, Bell would have to sign that deal with Pittsburgh.
Bell does not have to report to the Steelers by a certain date to get an accrued season to become eligible for free agency, contrary to what ESPN and others previously reported. Bell already has played the four-plus seasons he needs to become a free agent after the season.