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Bell To Play Under Franchise Tag; RB Vows To Have Best Season Yet
As reported it, there was a little optimism from Mike Tomlin over the weekend, but the lack of strong signs that the Steelers and running back Le'Veon Bell would agree on a long-term deal made it no surprise that Monday’s deadline for him to sign such a deal would pass without anything happening.

Bell’s agent Adisa Bakari confirmed the lack of a deal shortly before the 4 p.m. ET deadline and said that the writing is now on the wall for his client’s future with the Steelers.

“His intention was to retire as a Steeler,” Bakari said, via Adam Schefter of ESPN. “But now that there’s no deal, the practical reality is, this now likely will Le’Veon’s last season as a Steeler.”

Bakari didn’t detail how close the two sides may have come during contract discussions, but it doesn’t sound like they were any closer than they came while doing the same dance last year. Bakari said the Steelers “wanted to pay the position” rather than the player, which leaves Bell to decide when he’ll report to the team in order to make his case to the rest of the league ahead of expected free agency in 2019.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert released the following statement: "Even though we could not reach a long-term contract agreement with Bell, we are excited he will be with the team in 2018. We worked very hard to find common ground, but we were unable to accomplish that prior to today’s deadline. Le’Veon will play this season under the Exclusive Franchise Tag designation.

"After the 2018 season is completed, we again will attempt to work out a long-term contract with Le’Veon in the hope that he will continue his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers."

Bell chimed in himself, via Twitter.

"To all my Steeler fans, my desire always has been to retire a Steeler...both sides worked extremely hard today to make that happen, but the NFL is a hard business at the fans that had hope, I’m sorry we let youu down but trust me, 2018 will be my best season to date..."’s Jeremy Fowler reminded readers that Bell didn't sign last season's tag until Sept. 4 and showed some rust with 3.46 yards per carry through the first three weeks. But he finished the year as an All-Pro, rushing 321 times for 1,291 yards along with 85 caches for 655 yards and 11 total touchdowns.

Bell has 7,996 total yards through 62 career regular-season games, the most of any NFL player over that span since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, outdistancing Eric Dickerson (7,842), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

For the record, Bell is set to make $14.5 million playing on the franchise tag this year.

Worth noting, appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio this morning, Schefter told listeners, "I think it's possible Bell sits out first half of the year if he doesn't get a long term deal done."

Schefter added: "The goal at that point would be to hit 2019 free agency healthy, not rack up another 400 touches. ..."

SiriusXM's Ross Tucker, commenting on Schefter's suggestion, tweeted: "This would probably be a smart move, by the way, to sit out the first 10 games but I'll believe a guy turns down $856K per week when I see it."

We're with Tucker on that latter point.

Whatever the case, we'll continue to follow up as developments warrant.