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Steelers Put Negotiations With Bell On Hold... For Now
As's Jeremy Fowler first reported today, the Pittsburgh Steelers are putting contract negotiations with running back Le'Veon Bell on hold while focusing on free agency and the NFL draft.

General manager Kevin Colbert said the team will eventually continue the dialogue with Bell's reps, but there's no update on a deal. The Steelers placed the franchise tag on Bell for the second straight year and have until July 16 to execute a long-term deal.

“Once you make the tag, you move onto other business that's more pertinent at this point," Colbert said, via NFL Network's Steve Wyche. "Then we'll address it at the appropriate time. But our long-term goal has always to have Le'Veon be a Steeler for his career."

And when is the appropriate time?

According to's Mike Florio, "The most appropriate time continues to be the deadline created by the Collective Bargaining Agreement: July 16. Anything before that isn’t a real deadline, and Bell’s past refusal to get a deal done suggests he’s not interested in doing a deal based on anything but a real deadline."

In addition, the draft could solidify other positions or open up more salary cap space, which could affect how the team approaches Bell's $14.5 million franchise tag.

Bell told Fowler in early March that the Steelers upped their offer, but the sides still disagree on terms; Bell is seeking at least $14.5 million per year over the course of a long-term contract. Bell also said he'll consider sitting out training camp for the second consecutive year, or even regular-season games. Bell would need to report to the team by Week 10 in order to accrue an NFL season and hit free agency in 2019.

After averaging 128.9 scrimmage yards per game since the start of 2013 -- the most in NFL history for a player's first five seasons -- Bell says he won't settle for less than what he's worth.

Colbert said rescinding the tag is improbable, but he's hopeful Bell is with the team in late July as they reconvene at St. Vincent College.

"Hopefully Le'Veon comes to training camp. Hopefully he's a part of a winning team in 2018," Colbert said. "We'll react to every situation as it presents itself. But we'll never sit around and talk about what-ifs."

And if Bell doesn't show up to camp?

"He's not under contract [in that case], he doesn't have to show up," Colbert said. "He doesn't sign the deal, then we'll deal with it when it happens. There's nothing to react to."

Fowler went on to explain that part of the holdup is the precedent set in the running back market.

The Steelers know Bell is worth big money, but as Fowler points out, paying him $14.5 million per year would nearly double the annual average salary of Atlanta's Devonta Freeman, who currently tops all backs at $8.25 million. Bell believes he shouldn't be punished for what the market dictates. Considering his role in the team's trio of "Killer B's" on offense, which features Bell along with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown (whose contracts pay a combined $37 million annually), it's hard to argue Bell doesn't deserve a bump.

"Both of those guys got what they deserved," said Bell earlier this month. "I feel I'm next in line."

It's worth remembering that Bell told NFL Network last summer that he wants to be paid like the combination of a No. 1 running back and a No. 2 wide receiver.

His stance is understandable given he's been exactly that the last two seasons. But catching the ball is also part of the running back's job requirements, so there's plenty of wiggle room between Bell's view and the Steelers. And that's what they'll be looking to dial in.

When they start talking again.

We'll be watching for more on that.