Asked whether the Steelers have considered rescinding Bell's $12.1 million franchise tender, Colbert told ESPN the Steelers will work with who's available. Still, he said, "I fully expect Le'Veon Bell to be a significant contributor for the 2017 Steelers. That's as simple as I can state it."
Both sides couldn't reach a long-term contract before the deadline to do so passed, and because Bell isn't under contract, he's training in South Florida instead of at Saint Vincent College for training camp. All signs point to a late August return for Bell, whose Steelers will play the first-string offense Aug. 26 against the Indianapolis Colts.
When asked about the belief that Bell can stay fresh and injury free away from the team, Colbert stressed, "It's beneficial for everybody to be in camp.
"I'll argue that consistently," Colbert said. "Training camp is important for the growth and preparedness to be ready to play this game opening week. We can argue about camp and preseason, how many games and all that, but I do know you need to practice this game to play it at the highest level. Someone once said it would be like boxing without sparring. You can't just show up and play."
Bell can't be fined for his absence from training camp because he doesn't have a signed contract. He isn't permitted to receive a long-term contract this season because the deadline to do so for tagged players passed on July 17.
Bell is one of the game's best playmakers but plays in a positional market that appears tapped out at around $8 million per year. Colbert said the Steelers don't "box anybody" when it comes to positional marketplaces and place values on players based on what they do for the team. But the Steelers can't revisit that process with Bell until after the season.
"Right now we're worried about 2017; that's all we can focus on," Colbert said. "We've said it in the past -- we want Le'Veon to have a great NFL career as a Pittsburgh Steeler. That hasn't changed. In reality, all we're dealing with is 2017."