Pittsburgh franchise-tagged the running back over the offseason, but Bell has yet to show up to the facility to sign and play on the $14.54 million tender. Bell must report by Week 10 or else his contract tolls into next season.
Bell's no-show is the latest in a slew of promised or reported, then delayed appearances at the Steelers' facility. Bell said he'd show up on Labor Day; he didn't. He was reportedly aiming to return during Pittsburgh's Week 7 bye; that didn't happen. Now, after the bye, the back still isn't in the building.
If and when Bell does show up, it is highly unlikely that he will be traded, as was rumored in weeks past. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that both the running back and Steelers president Art Rooney II are opposed to the idea.
Rapoport added that the most likely reality now is that Bell opts to show up right after the Oct. 30 trade deadline "at 4:01 [p.m.] on Tuesday", just to ensure that the Steelers don't ship him out.
Despite all the reports and outside noise surrounding Bell, Pittsburgh's locker room remains unbothered.
"In our locker room we are not even worried about it," defensive lineman Cam Heyward said Monday. "It's unfair for me to even talk about him and he will have to answer his own questions when he wants to but we are not talking about it right now. We've got Cleveland Browns football and if he joins along the way so be it. It's not fair to everybody in this locker room and Le'Veon himself for us to keep talking about it."
While Bell works out his return, his backup, James Conner, is threatening to steal the starting role. Conner is averaging 4.4 yards per rush through six games and is picking up steam. The second-year back has tallied 314 total yards and four touchdowns over his last two contests.
Steelers players insist that when Bell returns there won't be an issue in the building or the lineup.
"I'm not comparing anybody. I just think James is having a really good season so far and he's going to continue to have to be a workhorse and if Le'Veon comes back we will need him to be a workhorse as well," Heyward said. "All we are concerned with is getting W's. I don't care how we do it, let's just get the W."