Pittsburgh must reach a multi-year agreement with Bell by 4 p.m. Monday.
“Unfortunately, we were unable to agree to terms on a long-term contract with Le’Veon Bell prior to today’s deadline”, said General Manager Kevin Colbert in a statement.
Channel 11’s Chase Williams reports the Steelers running back will play this year under a franchise tag and become a free agent after the season.
Bell had the leverage to surpass LeSean McCoy’s five-year, $40 million deal with the Buffalo Bills.
This has obviously complicated contract negotiations between the two sides.
For now, the question is when Bell will arrive in camp. From the Steelers’ perspective, guaranteeing a huge amount to a player who’s been twice suspended for violations of the league’s substance abuse policy is a risk, especially since that player plays a grueling position and has already missed time due to injury. The Steelers likely don’t mind, as Bell’s absence will allow them to more closely evaluate third-round pick James Conner, and Bell has a history of being away from the team and playing at an elite level upon his immediate return.
Bell, 25, ran for 1,268 yards and seven touchdowns and caught another 75 passes in 12 games for Pittsburgh in 2016.
Bell had surgery in March, so he ought to be ready by now.
In both cases, Bell surpassed Hall of Famer Franco Harris.
If Bell falters in 2017, the Steelers spent a year getting leverage and the services of one of the most risky offensive weapons in the sport they both play. Bell wants to be compensated not just for running the ball, but also paid in line with his pass-catching ability. The Steelers begin camp July 27 in Latrobe. The Steelers reserved that space for potential contract extensions with Bell, defensive end Stephon Tuitt and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva.