Shell, from Aliquippa (Pa.) Hopewell -- less than a 30-minute drive from Pitt -- decided on the Panthers this summer, but he kept his intentions quiet.
The four-star prospect is following in the footsteps of Pro Football Hall of Famer and Pitt and Western Pennsylvania legend Tony Dorsett, whose name adorns the Hopewell stadium. Dorsett starred at Hopewell before leading the Panthers to the 1976 national championship.
Shell said recently that he has built a solid relationship with the new staff at Pitt, most notably coach Todd Graham and running backs coach Calvin Magee.
"He's a great guy," Shell said of Graham in an interview two weeks ago. "We got a great relationship. Coach Magee is a great guy, too. I can't really complain about him being the running backs coach; he's had plenty of 1,000-yard rushers.
"I think they can turn that program around and become a national threat."
A few weeks ago, Shell admitted he likely would have chosen Ohio State if not for the looming NCAA sanctions and the resignation of coach Jim Tressel.
After Tressel resigned, Pitt became Shell's favorite, and he said during the summer he wanted to commit not to an established power but to a program he believed was on the rise. Pitt fits that bill.
Last month, the Atlantic Coast Conference accepted bids from Big East members Pitt and Syracuse to become a 14-school league.
In September, Shell became Western Pennsylvania's all-time leading rusher and now has 7,827 yards.
He has a chance to become the state's all-time leading rusher, a record held by Steelton-Highspire back Jeremiah Young (9,027 yards).
Shell and Hopewell face Central Valley (Pa.) at 6 p.m. ET Friday on ESPNU.
Jared Shanker covers Midwest recruiting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.