Around the NFL  

 

Art Rooney not concerned over Le'Veon Bell's absence

Print

For the second consecutive summer, Le'Veon Bell is keeping his distance from Steelers training camp.

The Steelers running back is skipping camp once again after he and Pittsburgh's front office failed to come to an agreement on a long-term deal before the deadline to do so passed. If and when Bell returns, he'll sign his $14.5 million franchise tender and play for the Steelers under the tag.

Despite Bell's second consecutive training-camp absence, Steelers brass isn't worried about the running back's physical or mental state heading into what could be his final year with the organization.

"We went through this last year," Steelers owner Art Rooney II told NFL Network's Judy Battista on Inside Training Camp Live on Saturday, "and when Le'Veon got here, his commitment to the team is as good as ever so expect the same thing when he gets here this year. Of course, I hope he gets here a little earlier; we'll see.

"Le'Veon is a professional. We're disappointed we weren't able to come to an agreement but that's the business side of football. Respect his position, no hard feelings. We just like to get him here as quickly as we can and get him started."

When pressed, Rooney couldn't say for sure whether he thinks 2018 will be Bell's last season in black and gold.

"I'm not going to say that. We'll revisit his contract after the season," Rooney told Battista. "Who knows? There's a lot of miles to travel between now and then and hopefully a lot of good miles on the football field for Le'Veon."

That optimistic outlook doesn't quite jive with the opinion of Bell's agent, Adisa Bakari, who suggested weeks ago that "the most likely scenario is that '18 will be [Bell's] last season in the black and gold."

There's no telling how the running-back contract landscape will have changed by the time 2019 free agency rolls around -- or how the Steelers will evaluate it. Less than a week after the franchise tag deadline passed, Bell was among many running backs celebrating Rams tailback Todd Gurley's $60 million contract with $45 million in guarantees. Cardinals running back David Johnson and Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott could also see extensions come their way before the season comes to a close.

Bell's payday is coming eventually, though when and from whom remain unclear. In the meantime, Bell and the Steelers have a season to play.

Print