Steelers place exclusive franchise tag on Le'Veon Bell

The Pittsburgh Steelers have placed the franchise tag on star running back Le'Veon Bell, the team announced Monday.

Bell received the exclusive tender. With that designation, Bell can negotiate only with the Steelers and isn't able to sign an offer sheet with another team.

The sides have until July 15 at 4 p.m. ET to agree to a long-term contract. If no deal is reached, Bell would have to play the 2017 season under the franchise tender.

The deadline for teams to use their franchise tag is Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET.

Bell, 25, stated his case as the game's best running back during an explosive 2016 season in which he averaged 157 yards from scrimmage per game, the third-best clip ever for a running back.

The Steelers rode Bell into the postseason. They fed him the ball 31.8 times per game rushing or receiving over the final eight games he finished -- all wins, with two coming in the playoffs.

While racking up yards, Bell earned MVP consideration and national acclaim for a patient yet effective running style that showed that running backs don't have to hit the hole right away. In the process, Bell broke Franco Harris' regular-season and postseason single-game rushing records.

Injuries have ended Bell's past three seasons prematurely, including a groin injury suffered during the 36-17 AFC title game loss to the New England Patriots. In four NFL seasons, Bell has dealt with two knee injuries and two drug-related suspensions.

The Steelers stood by Bell during his suspensions in part because of his work ethic, and Bell validated that faith with a monster year.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler contributed to this report.