The Facts: Steelers owner Art Rooney II, asked if he's surprised the Bell saga lasted as long as it has, replied simply: "Yes," Rooney said. "Yes, I am."
The mystery surrounding the franchise running back could be ending this week, with Bell potentially returning to the team as early as Monday. Except Bell hasn't told the team he's definitely coming back, and until he does, it's status quo. One facet, though, is becoming clearer: Bell appears increasingly likely to remain on the Steelers until 2019. Rooney said as much in a conversation with NFL Network this week before exiting the league meetings in New York City. "I expect him to be a member of the team going forward," Rooney told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, in response to a question about trade talks ahead of the Oct. 30 trade deadline. "That's my expectation." Pittsburgh shopped Bell earlier in the season, and remain open to it. But by now, they know the reality is that Bell will almost certainly sign whenever he does, rejoin the team, form a 1-2 punch with James Conner, then walk in the offseason. Based on Bell's current contract and the inability of a new team to negotiate a deal to lock him up long term, this was always the likeliest option. And Rooney seems resigned to it.