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.