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Steelers place franchise tag on Le'Veon Bell

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The Pittsburgh Steelers ensured Le'Veon Bell isn't hitting the free-agent market.

The team placed the exclusive franchise tag on the dual-threat running back on Monday, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. The exclusive tag means he cannot negotiate with any other team.

The Steelers later confirmed the news. The tag is expected to surpass $12 million for running backs this season.

Using the tag was always the likely outcome for the Steelers as the sides work toward a new deal. With the Wednesday deadline to designate tags, a long-term deal wasn't coming to fruition. The team and Bell now have until July 15 to hammer out a multi-year solution.

The premier dual-threat back in the NFL, Bell could set the market when he finally signs a new deal.

The 25-year-old runner is currently rehabbing from a groin injury, but avoided surgery.

As the engine of the Steelers' offense, Bell has expressed his desire to remain in Pittsburgh. The question for the team is how much to pay a player who has dealt with injuries and suspensions recently. Despite those lingering concerns, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo said on Up To The Minute Live Monday that the Steelers will do everything they can to avoid Bell playing on the one-year tag.

Rapoport's report earlier in the day that Pittsburgh is making "significant progress" toward a long-term deal Antonio Brown. By tagging Bell, the Steelers can focus on getting Brown's deal done before the start of the new league year on March 9. After that's done, team brass can turn back to Bell's contract.

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