The Pittsburgh Steelers are still hoping to trade their holdout All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell before Tuesday’s deadline, according to CBS Sports.
Bell has not played a down with the Steelers this season, refusing to sign a franchise tag contract with the team. While cross-state rival Philadelphia Eagles have expressed interest in Bell, the network said that because of running back injuries with other teams, that market may have increased.
Steelers owner Art Rooney II had raised speculation in comments to the NFL Network this past week that the team had changed their mind to part ways with the disgruntled but talented offensive threat. “I expect him to be a member of the team going forward,” Rooney told said while attending NFL meetings in New York City. “That’s my expectation.”
CBS Sports wrote that Rooney’s comments were more reflective of the market for the running back than the Steelers’ desire to move Bell to another club.
“Rooney gave his front office authority to execute a trade of the All Pro and that remains the case,” CBS Sports wrote. “… At the time Rooney spoke briefly to NFL Media at the recent owner’s meetings, his sentiment about not expecting a trade were based only on the fact that other teams had not made recent inquires, though historically trades of this magnitude are not completed until much closer to the deadline itself.”
The network stated that any team interested in Bell would need the star back to sign a franchise contract with that team before the deadline, set for 4 p.m. Tuesday, Eastern time.
Bell’s replacement, James Conner, has performed well, averaging 4.4 yards per carry along with 257 more yards on 26 catches this season. The Steelers are 3-2-1 going into their bye week. Pittsburgh has a half-game lead over the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens (4-3) in the AFC North Division going into this Sunday’s games.
“I think the team has handled it well,” Rooney told the NFL Network, referring to the controversy around Bell’s holdout and the reaction to him by his teammates this season. “The players have adjusted, just carrying on without him. That’s all you can do. But it’s early in the season, we have a long way to go. We just have to keep getting better every week. Can’t take anything for granted. We’ve learned that James is a darn good football player. Happy to have him,” Rooney continued.
Bell, who played his college football at Michigan State, has rushed for 5,336 yards in five seasons with the Steelers, averaging 4.3 yards per carry and scoring 35 touchdowns. He also gained another 2,660 yards receiving while scoring another seven touchdowns. He has fumbled just four times while handling the football more than 1,200 times.