Rooney: Steelers seek long-term deal for Le'Veon Bell

Impending free agent Le'Veon Bell isn't alone in his newfound confidence that a long-term agreement will be reached to solidify his future in Pittsburgh.

Speaking to local reporters Wednesday, Steelers president Art Rooney II echoed Bell's sentiments.

The organization would "like to have a long-term contract with Le'Veon," Rooney confirmed, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Although Rooney conceded that these lucrative commitments rarely get finalized until the last minute, he stressed that both sides are intent on making it happen.

Visiting NFL Network's Super Bowl LIVE last week, Bell cited guaranteed money as a potential sticking point.

If those crucial details can't be ironed out, the franchise tag would be in play for the second consecutive offseason.

That said, Rooney isn't ready to address the tag scenario, per Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Shortly after the Steelers' season-ending loss to the Jaguars, Bell was labeled a prime culprit for missing the majority of the team's final walkthrough. In the wake of those reports, rumors began surfacing that the All-Pro dual-purpose back's Pittsburgh days were numbered.

Now that we've heard from both Bell and the Steelers brass, it's evident that both sides are seeking a renewed commitment.

Here's what else we learned from Rooney on Wednesday:

  1. In contrast to last offseason, the Steelers have no gnawing anxiety at quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger not only made it clear that he will return for 2018, but also reportedly told teammates that he wants to play out his contract, which runs through the 2019 season.

Rooney went a step further, stating that Roethlisberger has expressed a desire to play beyond that contract. The Steelers will sit down with the quarterback's representatives to discuss a new deal "when it's the right time," according to Rooney.

  1. Pittsburgh's disappointing showing versus Jacksonville resulted in a report that some of the organization's limited partners planned to lobby Rooney for coach Mike Tomlin's dismissal. "I didn't get that letter yet," Rooney quipped Tuesday, per Bouchette. "I don't know if it's coming by Pony Express."

Rooney went on to express total confidence in Tomlin, adding that his head coach's impressive track record speaks for itself. "You look at Mike's record overall," Rooney said, via Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, "and you start to look around and it's always easy for people to say get rid of your coach. But OK, who are you hiring next? There is another part to that question that people don't want to get into. I am very comfortable that Mike is our coach and happy that Mike is our coach and I think he's one of the best coaches in the NFL."

  1. Why did the Steelers move on from offensive coordinator Todd Haley, whose contract expired after the season? Rooney explained there wasn't much to the decision beyond the realization that "there are times when you make a move to make change." That rationale is reminiscent of the team's decision to part ways with successful but embattled play-caller Bruce Arians after the 2011 season.
  1. The late-season war ofwords between Steelers players and James Harrison didn't sit well with Rooney, who expressed disappointment with the way the venerable linebacker's Pittsburgh career ended. Rooney neglected to touch on details behind the decision but did concede there was "blame on both sides of the fence on that one."
  1. Rooney acknowledged that the controversial decision to overturn tight end Jesse James' touchdown catch against the Patriots in Week 15 was the correct call by the letter of the law. It doesn't follow, however, that Rooney has made peace with the league's labyrinthine catch rule. "I'm all for looking at it" this offseason, Rooney added, via Bouchette.
  1. Rooney touched on the future of linebacker Ryan Shazier, who is still recovering from a spinal injury sustained in December. "I expect Ryan is going to be here one way or the other," Rooney allowed, per Bouchette, "and have a role on the team one way or other in 2018."
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