If Bell wants to play in the NFL this year, he has to report to the team by 4 p.m. ET on Nov. 13. Although Bell hasn’t given any indication about what he plans to do, it seems that the Steelers are expecting him to show up.
During an interview with Sirius XM NFL Radio on Thursday, Steelers owner Art Rooney II admitted that he has no idea what the plan is for Bell, but he did add that he expects the running back to report at some point before Tuesday’s deadline.
“I don’t know what his plans are, but I would say that at this point, we expect him to come back next week,” Rooney said. “We know he’s back in Pittsburgh and so we’re hoping to have some communications with him over the weekend, and we’re kind of expecting he’ll be back next week.”
Rooney’s quote basically epitomizes the craziness of the Bell situation perfectly. For one, he’s the owner and he has no idea if Bell is going to show up, despite the fact that we’re less than five days away from the deadline. Also, he’s “hoping” to have communication with Bell over the weekend, but doesn’t actually seem to know if it’s going to happen. Oh, and he clearly hasn’t met with Bell yet, even though the running back has been in Pittsburgh since Tuesday.
Another odd thing about this situation is the fact that no one seems to have any idea what will happen if Bell doesn’t report to the Steelers on Tuesday. On one hand, it was originally thought that Bell could be tagged again at the 2018 number of $14.5 million. However, a report came out this week — that Will Brinson covered it in detail here — and that report said that if Bell skipped the season it would count as his second franchise tag, meaning that if the Steelers tagged him in 2019, they would have to pay him the value of a third franchise tag, which would be roughly $25 million (In that situation, the Steelers would definitely let him walk because there’s no way they would pay him that kind of money when they have James Conner under contract for $668,000 next season)
During his interview, Rooney was asked if he had a “definitive answer” about what the CBA says as it relates to Bell’s franchise tag and he didn’t clarify things at all.
“I have to say, probably not,” Rooney said if the Steelers knew which tag would apply to Bell. “We’re in uncharted territory here in terms of this has never really happened, as far as I know. There are questions that we may get to at the end of the season, but we’ll cross those bridges when we get to them after the season.”
You can see how unsure Rooney felt about everything by watching his interview below. Also, if you’re going to be watching the Panthers-Steelers game on Thursday, make sure to click here and follow along in our live blog.