Tomlin On Bell 11th-Hour Contract Talks: ‘I’m Watching With Keen Interest’


The Pittsburgh Steelers will report to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe in less than two weeks and as is usually the case at this time of the offseason, head coach Mike Tomlin is currently back home in Virginia taking part in his annual football camp in addition to showing his support for the Hampton Roads Youth Foundation.

Bruce Rader of WAVY-TV had his usual one-on-one interview with Tomlin on Friday and he asked the Steelers head coach about the current contract situation with running back Le’Veon Bell being as the league deadline for signing him to a long-term contract is Monday. Specifically, Rader asked Tomlin if he believes Bell will be in training camp on time this year.

“I’m optimistic,” Tomlin said. “As you said, the deadline is Monday and he may even be in camp with a long-term deal. We’ll see how the weekend unfolds. I don’t have direct involvement in some of those things, but obviously I’m watching with keen interest.”

That’s the expected response from Tomlin concerning Bell and like the rest of us, he’ll now sit and wait to see if an 11th-hour deal can be consummated between the running back and the team. Regardless of the outcome on Bell’s situation, Tomlin admitted that there’s a lot of optimism surrounding his 2017 team just ahead of training camp getting underway.

“There is,” Tomlin said. “We’ve got talent, but more importantly, we’ve got a nice blend of experience and inexperience and the older guys that have been around, they’re doing a great job of educating the younger guys. And that’s what it’s about. The younger guys are working hard and learning those lessons and I look forward to going to camp with them.”


All optimism aside, Tomlin predictably admitted that there’s just one acceptable outcome to the Steelers 2017 season and that’s a Super Bowl championship.

“There’s only one escape hatch on this next season that’s going to be a good one for us and that’s what our focus is,” Tomlin said.

You can watch Tomlin’s full interview with Rader below.

  • Big White

    whoa. That means they are close.

  • afrazier9

    I hope so I feel like they are going toget it done. Both sides know the potential of this team

  • RickM

    If I’m Bell I’m thinking that I’m coming off another injury and surgery this time. There’s no way that I would turn down a fair long-term deal and risk another injury that would significantly lower my market value in 2018. A player just can’t buy enough injury insurance to offset what might be lost long-term. I think a deal gets done on Monday.

  • Flip Fisher

    No indication they are close. No doubt Tomlin is in the loop on what the sides are offering. Adisa Bakari will probably leak something after Monday. NFL fans saw how his handling of Tyrod Taylor’s contract went.

  • Big White

    wrong. If they weren’t close he would have deferred any comment, but the guy lit up like a Christmas tree. Maybe you just have trouble reading between the lines.

  • Matt Manzo

    Great point! That’s what I think gets it done, too! His mom being a Steelers fan is, I hope, another scale tipper!

  • Big White

    “He may even be in camp with a long term deal”, “i’m watching with keen interest”

    Translation: They’re very close.

  • dany

    well hope you’re right!

  • Chad H

    That’s where I think the problem with his contract is. He wants the moons worth of money and the Steelers are going with the why over pay a hurt guy.

  • dany

    Yeah but as always, it’s mostly up to his agent not him. They’re hired for a reason, a smart player keeps his mouth shut and lets the agent with experience in this do the talking

  • RickM

    Sorry but I don’t believe that for a second. An agent will do all the negotiating and get the best offer possible. He’ll then report the final offer to the player and give his opinion. But the player will make the final decision. Any player who gives away his right to make that decision is a fool.

  • RickM

    For me, it’s just not possibke to know how close or far apart the two sides are.

  • RickM

    Every angle. Good stuff.

  • S.T.

    Utter nonsense. We all hope a deal gets done, and I expect they’ll come to terms Monday, but Tomlin’s vanilla comments are certainly no indication that a deal is imminent.

  • Alan Tman

    That’s Tomlin’s favorite. Nicknamed him Juice, but the only thing we don’t know is has a team contacted his agent and put a 15 million dollar bug in their ear for 2018. That’s what all this comes down to. At that point Bell won’t budge off of his number.

  • copanut

    Yeah but that would mean he needs to play a full 2017 without injury, then hope the Steelers don’t franchise him again and the whispering team take a high round RB instead of dropping 15. So it’s a matter of take a good deal now or risk it all for a hope that all the cards fall right for what might be a better deal later.

  • Alan Tman

    You act like it’s never been done before.

  • Flip Fisher

    I remember Tomlin being excited about Jarvis Jones, Sweed and Adams too. Nothing to see here.
    I just know coach speak when I see it. 🙂

  • copanut

    No, I merely pointed out the tradeoff.

  • RickM

    It’s a bigger risk than you may think with his injury history. Even another groin injury will create major concern in other teams as recurring groin injuries did in Arian Foster, a really good RB. He had groin injuries in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and announced his retirement after the third one. So it doesn’t even need to be a catastrophic injury for Bell’s market value to drop.

  • Alan Tman

    For an extra million over the next 5 years. That’s a risk anyone would take. Especially if you going to get the 12 million this year.

  • Chad H

    11 hr so you could assume they weren’t close to start. Who knows where they are now.

  • JohnnyFootball

    He has 12 million dollars in built in “insurance” one way or the other. Guaranteed. And to get him to sign and lock himself up fro 5 years you are going to need to put a lot more than that in his pocket, right now.

  • Rocksolid20

    Sad to say , I too was excited about Sweed .

  • Romel Roze

    I agree 100%

  • Romel Roze

    Don’t know if a deal gets done, but I agree Bell should take a good offer considering his bad luck with injuries and his suspensions.

  • Romel Roze

    12 million reasons why he may not be in a rush to sign. If he has another great year, his best year, which could be a monster year, he could be looking at an even bigger contract next year at age 26.

    Considering he’ll be playing with AB and MB for the first time in a long time is huge. These guys really have not all played together that much.

    Then throw in an OL that has played together and steadily improved and this could be a tremendous year for Bell and the offense. Especially, if Bell plays 16 games. He can be guaranteed 25 mil in 2 years if Franchised again next year.

  • Romel Roze

    The Steelers have to at least give him 25 mil in guaranteed money and a 5 year 67.5 mil contract for Bell to consider signing.

    The 25 mil is what he will earn if Franchised this year and next year. 5 year 67.5 is an average of 13.5 mil per year which is a good deal considering that is about what the franchise tag will probably average in the next 3 years for his position.

    Plus he has not really stayed healthy.

    We already know he was talking 15 mil per season. Now that AB is getting 17 mil per season, 5 years for 67.5 mil might not get it done. But AB has been available and reliable and his position pays more. Bell and his agent must understand that.

    5 years for 67.5 mil and 25 mil guaranteed is a fair market deal for Bell.

  • Romel Roze

    I heard AB was getting 17 mil per season, but when I looked it up he is only getting 14.5 mil per year which is 500k less than the franchise tender per year which will only increase each year.

    15 mil for WRS and 12 mil for RBS is the average salary for the top 5 players at their respective position.

    That says the Steelers is probably offering Bell 11.5 Mili per year based on what the position pays and the fact that they gave AB .5k less than the average.

    So maybe the Steelers are offering 5 years 57.5 mil. Both players are considered the best or at least top 2 at his position. Bell can only go on the league average salary for his position. Guarantee 25 mil in the first 2 years and 5 for 57.5 or 60 mil and get it done.

  • RickM

    I agree. I sure would. He had 261 carries last year and 75 receptions in the regular season. That’s 336 plays where he was directly used. The law of averages tells you that kind of workload increases the chance of injury. And as you say, the suspensions are another factor. I think he’ll realize the risk he would take by not agreeing to a long-term deal now.

  • Romel Roze

    What do you think is a fair deal for Bell?

    If I am his agent I will say that the RB position in previous years were undervalued because there weren’t any true franchise RBs except Andrien Peterson and he got paid around 14.5 million per year and that was many years ago.

    I would say true franchise RBs should get paid as much if not more than franchise WRs (15 mil per) because they probably have a bigger impact on the game. I would say Bell, Elliott and David Johnson are true franchise RBs and their presence on their respective teams were almost as valuable as the teams QB.

    I would point to the Steelers winning streak and 2 playoff wins and ask the Steelers who was more responsible for those wins? It wasn’t the QB, he did not play well down the stretch and it was not AB. It was Bell. I would say is the definition of a true franchise player.

    Then I would say not only is Bell a top 5 RB that should average 12 mil per year, based on the NFL current salary structure, which is low for a true franchise RB, but Bell is also a very good WR that will give you a minimum 75 receptions and 600 to 1000 yards.

    I would say Bell will probably be the Steelers 2nd or 3rd most productive WR this year.

    I would say that makes Bell more versatile than Adrian Peterson and worth the money Adrian received if not more if you count inflation and the fact that players salaries are always rising each year.

    The Steelers will counter with the injuries, suspension and the fact that Bell NEVER completed a full season during any of the teams playoff runs.

    They will say he has yet to prove that we can count on his availability when we need him at the end of the year. That he is a high risk player based on his history.

    The compromise is 5 years and about 13 mil per year. 12 mil per year based on the NFL salary structure for being a top 5 RB. And another 5 mil for being a very good WR. Subtract 3.5 mil for his past injuries and suspensions and we have 13.5 mil per year. If he stayed healthy he would have gotten Peterson money plus the cost of inflation….17 mil per year. Just like these QBS that aren’t that good making 20-23 mil per year, like they are Brees, Brady or Roger’s. The cost for players has risen over the years. But the fact that the Steelers always under pay I suspect they are offering Bell something around 10 to 11 per year. I have a feeling Bell wants no less than 13 per year.Just a guess.

  • Alan Tman

    I really think he has a much better offer somewhere or he would have jumped at that deal.