2017 Offseason Questions: Deal Or No Deal For Le’Veon Bell?

The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Will the Steelers and Le’Veon Bell finalize a long-term contract today?

It is frankly the only reasonable question to ask for today. This date, July 17, is the deadline for which teams can sign players that they have tendered a franchise tag a new contract for the 2017 season, so either running back Le’Veon Bell is going to be signed to a long-term deal today, or he is going to play the 2017 season under the franchise tag and head into the 2018 season prepared to hit the open market.

This is a pretty big deal considering what Bell has meant to the Steelers’ success on offense over the course of his first four years. He has been an All-Pro in both of the two seasons for which he was healthy for the majority of the year beyond his rookie season.

The Steelers can afford to give the running back a long-term contract, especially in terms of the salary cap, when you consider that he is already accounting for a cap hit of a bit over $12 million, that being the value of the franchise tag for a running back this season.

How much more or less will Bell demand or be willing to take, however? And how much higher or lower than that value is the front office prepared to go? Virtually everybody involved in these conversations has at some point spoken toward the desire to have Bell as a long-term member of the team, but money does a funny thing to people.

It is worth noting that running backs tend to have an especially short shelf life, and it is the position in which it is most likely that a player who reaches a quality status of play will only get one true opportunity for a big payday. If Bell wants to maximize his overall earnings, and the Steelers are not up to it, he may decide to take the $12-plus million and try the open market in 2018.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • CP72

    The Adrian Peterson Vikings deal screws this whole thing up. With the tag number being 12 million it makes Le’Veon think that’s the starting point in negotiations.

    I am guessing the Steelers are willing to make him the highest paid running back in the league. I don’t think they’re going above 10 million. I don’t think a deal gets done due to this.

  • Kevin Artis

    No deal. IMO.

  • There aren’t too many players like him that come all that often. They need to keep him around, at least as long as Ben is around to keep the team as a contender. Does anyone else remember the years of Jonathan Dwyer, Gary Russel and Issac Redman? If you have forgotten, they were way sub par in the RB department.

  • budabar

    There’s only so much money to go around and no team can afford the highest paid player at 3-4 positions so make him a nice offer if he rejects it then plan on moving on

  • Darth Blount 47

    *July 17th, Matt. I mean Howie. 😉


    I love how people act like it is their money that is getting given. Sure, if it was MY cash, I’d probably not give Bell 12 mill+ dollars to catch and grab a little ball of pigskin – in order to run across imaginary lines. But hey, that’s not the case. As you said, we already have him slotted for the money, and since we didn’t feel like actually truly upgrading this Free Agency period, nor have we yet to sign either Tuitt or Villy to extensions, I really hope we sign Bell.

    Lest people forget, the Steelers are historically known for great RB’s. When we’ve had them, we’ve been great. When we haven’t… well…

    Sure, this newfangled era of passing would seem to minimize that. But that’s the rubby – rub -rub… Bell catches more passes in a season than do some STARTING WR’s!!! So look at it as you are signing both a RB AND a WR, all in one fell swoop! 1 bird, two amazing traits. And for those who keep commenting that Bell is gonna fall off of some imaginary cliff in 2 years, I wouldn’t bet on that. Unless Tomlin chooses to run him into the ground because no deal is done OR on the horizons. Otherwise, this kid is special. And if Franco and Jerome can teach him the art of falling down gracefully and finding the sidelines, he could easily last for years and years like they did.

    Fingers and toes crossed, that we hear some truly good news this afternoon, Steeler Nation!

  • Michael Mosgrove

    NO deal

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    To me, it comes down to whether Le’Veon Bell ends up ranked up there like Jerome Bettis or Franco Harris as an all-time Steeler … or Barry Foster.

  • StolenUpVotes

    Still hopeful a deal gets done before the deadline today. Then we will just have to deal with fans moaning that he is making around 11-12M per

  • StolenUpVotes

    Also lets say the yearly average is the tag price he is currently at. Would people have issue with that knowing that only makes be the 63rd highest paid player in the league? Are there 62 guys that are better ball players than Bell? Abso-freaking-lutely not

  • falconsaftey43

    I’m hopeful for a 4 year deal. that seems like the sweet spot of keeping him here in his prime, and maximizing our Super Bowl chances while not taking too much risk that his performance suffers down the line. If they don’t get a deal done, IMO you HAVE to be planning to, and willing to tag him again next year. He’s too good to let go in his prime.

  • Steve Johnson

    And I hope they (Steelers) stand their ground too. Durability and Off-The-Field issues is definitely something to be concerned with. Three years @ 9M a year is more than enough. I’m willing to bet the guaranteed money is the issue here.

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    Here’s the real rub Darth:

    If they can’t negotiate a deal that lowers his cap hit, it’s likely neither side will feel inclined to sign.

  • falconsaftey43

    Why in the world would Bell sign for 3 years $27M when he’s very likely to pocket $26M over the next two years. Either he’s tagged again next year, bringing him to $26M, or he hit’s FA and get’s a top market RB deal like McCoy who got a $13M signing bonus. I just don’t see why he’d sign for the yearly average on a short deal like that. what’s the incentive?

  • ThatGuy

    I am curious as to whether the hold up is money per year or how much is guaranteed, or perhaps a little bit of both?

  • CP72

    There’s some security in signing now, and Bell doesn’t have the cleanest injury report.

  • falconsaftey43

    Players don’t think that way, they’ll happily bet on themselves with that sort of deal. Not to mention, it doesn’t really give him much long term security on only a 3 year deal. Say you give him that 3 year $27M with $12M signing bonus, base salary of $5M every year. So year 1 he’ll pocket $17 (nice little raise), but then year 2 only $5. His two year cash flow is at least $4M less than what he’s likely to get with double tag or if he hits FA next year, AND you’re giving him no long term security. Just makes no sense for Bell.

  • Darth Blount 47

    For Bell, it’s about legacy. Playing on a championship caliber squad, with a supremely talented Offensive Line (which lends to keeping him happy and healthy and productive) with the Best WR in the game and a Top 5-ish QB. Also, it’s the only NFL home he has known. And if you look at what he has said, it’s Black & Gold 4 Life. Plus, the money is good. No, great. Even at 10 mill per. There are soo many reasons why Bell should want to keep his family in Pittsburgh.

    For Pittsburgh, there may be a few less reasons to get the deal done, but they certainly exist nonetheless. With the money the Steelers have still to spend, combined with the obvious talent of Bell, you are playing keep away from other teams, almost as much as you are benefiting from keeping him here. It’s win/win in that regard. He’s turned his life around. Shown he can be trusted. So far…

    And though expensive, has also produced at a historic rate when healthy. And he hasn’t been “injury prone” as much as “injury unlucky.” There is a difference. He’s really well-liked by the fanbase. And he provides an element that few RB’s can, by catching the 70/80+ passes a year.

    It really behooves both sides to come to a deal. There are many more positive reasons than the negative ones. I truly think on talent, which is what is of utmost importance, Bell is actually worth it. I understand the hesitancy, but if this Offense wants to be Super Bowl worthy over the next few years… WE NEED BELL.

    Lastly, imagine if Ben retires next year. How great would it be to have a run game to be able to rely on for the next QB? I think that doesn’t get talked about enough. Le’Veon instantly becomes a Steeler security blanket.

  • Darth Blount 47


  • StolenUpVotes

    Also so much of this team is already locked in for the next 3-4 seasons anyways.

  • falconsaftey43

    Just wanted to throw this out there because I found it interesting (although not overly meaningful). Robert Woods just got a 5 year $34M ($6.8 avg if you don’t want to do the math) as a very middling WR. He’s averaged 43 yards per game for his career and has 12 TDs.

    2016 Receiving stats:
    Woods 51 rec, 613 yards, 1 TD
    Bell 75 rec, 616 yards, 2 TD

    I wonder what Bell could do as a full time slot WR? Could help prolong his career.

  • Darth Blount 47

    His trajectory and skill says he COULD surpass them both.

    6,410 total yards and 33 TD’s in 4 seasons (including playoffs). At 25, just entering his prime. Having missed 17 games (not including playoffs). On a team with a top 3 Offensive Line and the security of a great QB/WR combo.

  • falconsaftey43

    Your last point is one I strongly support, but have actually seen argued the other way, which I don’t get at all. Nothing better to bring a young QB along than strong OL, elite RB who is amazing as a check down option, and oh yeah, best WR in the NFL. To me, it all lines up perfectly. Extend Bell to lock him in for 1 or 2 more runs with Ben, and to help easy the transition to the new QB after that.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Including his all important, stud Offensive Line.

  • Charles Mullins

    No deal.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    I would love it if Bell did.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Yep. It just makes sense. I love Conner. Watched him a ton at Pitt. But do I think I’d want to start over with a new QB and essentially a new RB, in 2018/19? God, I hope not. Not yet. Ideally, Bell stays and we let Conner grow and learn and be that – Rocky Bleier to Franco Harris – sort of relationship.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Haha. Good call.

    Heck, at 6’2, 230 (His Wiki listed height/weight) we may need Le’Veon to go full Iron Man and play ILB here, if things go south there in a hurry. Lol.

  • falconsaftey43

    Also drafted in 2013, Tavon Austin 4 year $42M. 2610 career yards from scrimmage.

  • falconsaftey43

    Reason I bring this up, is for those who think Bell’s true market value is in the $9M/y range. If Tavon Austin can get $10.5 with his sorry production without even going into FA, there is no way Bell can’t at least get $11M on the open market from some team. Whether you think the Steelers should pay that or not is another question, but let’s be real about his market value.

  • StolenUpVotes

    The only one in question is AV, but he has zero leverage right now. He is on the cheap for two seasons.

  • colingrant

    He has to get his money, as this could possibly be his only chance at a huge payday. Every time he touches the football could be his last. While that can be said for anyone, his physicality and number of touches per game makes him more vulnerable than most. A pessimist could say he’s already peaked physically, as the number of hits a running back endures, while varying from running back to running back, is a finite one nonetheless. He doesn’t need the injury exposure training camp can bring, so considering his value to the team I could care less of a hold out. One undeniable sticking point however, is how much money can be tied up into a player a step or two away from a failed drug testing resulting in missing season. That’s an issue.

  • falconsaftey43

    to clarify, if he fails a drug test, he’ll be suspended 4 games (part of ruling on his appeal of previous suspension was he remains in this stage of the program).

  • Andrew Norwood

    Franco is the all time leading rusher in the Super Bowl. Obviously requires a lot of team success to have a record like that. But Bell would be wise to get a fair contract for him but not try to squeeze the Steelers too. The Steelers, and Pittsburgh, have definitely taken care of their guys over the years. He would do well to sign a deal to stay that would pay him $1M LESS per year than what he could get by signing with the Redskins, for instance. Then being a forgotten man in 3-4 years.

  • Matt

    Its inevitable that these RB numbers go up annually. David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliot are absolutely going to demand top dollar. 8m per year for the best RB in the league vs Derek Carr making 20+m is insane.

    Pay the man what he is worth. Maybe even a bit more as we could expect to see Ben retiring in 2-3 years and will need someone to be the face of the franchise with Shazier and AB.

    Also he is only 25… has another 4 – 7 solid years left.

  • Darth Blount 47

    True. You know Snyder is just chomping at the bit to pay him that 15 mill per! Likely wouldn’t even hesitate. Heck, he’s willing to pay Cousins to stay on the tag, year after year now.

  • falconsaftey43

    I don’t know why people can’t recognize this. RB “market” is down because there was a lull in really good RBs hitting their 2nd contract. Even Freeman is likely to get PAID soon and surpass McCoy in avg/year.

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    10 million per would lower his cap hit. 4 for 38 would be ideal, but Pittsburgh would gladly go with 4 for 40. You’re right about it being great for everyone if they can work that out. I’m all for it too!

  • Big Joe

    No. I don’t think there will be a deal today. I think they move on to AV and try to get something done there using LB’s $12.1M number as the one they’ll carry forward this year.

  • JB Burgess

    No deal. He’s been injured 3 out 4 seasons, plus suspensions. H E double L no

  • Rocksolid20

    I would rather he bring us some championships , like Bettis and Harris
    instead of high yardage and stats .

  • Rocksolid20

    If he wants to play in Washington year after year just for the money, with no hope
    of a Super Bowl , so be it .


    Let it go.