Steelers Rumors

Le’Veon Bell Won’t Report This Week

The Steelers are not expecting running back Le’Veon Bell to return to the team this week, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Bell plans on suiting up for the Steelers in their Week 8 game, so it’s anyone’s guess as to why he wouldn’t formally report this week and collect a free game check. 

By staying away through Week 7, Bell will forfeit a chance at earning $855K. Meanwhile, the Steelers will have to wait and see if he’ll stick to his plan and show up before the team’s game against the Browns on Sunday, Oct. 28.

Bell’s bye week paycheck was not guaranteed, since the Steelers could have used a roster exemption for Bell, allowing them to withhold his pay. But, in that instance, the two sides could have compromised on a pay rate that would have given him partial compensation during the bye. In any event, Bell has decided to extend his holdout a bit longer.

It will be interesting to see how Bell is received in the locker room once he returns and how Steelers coaches plan to use him. James Conner has been exceptional in Bell’s absence and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has campaigned for him to retain a role even once Bell returns.

“I will push for James to get as much run as we can because we’ve seen some great things from him in all phases of football,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s picking up blitzes, he’s catching the ball, he’s running hard and making plays and playing with a passion, so we need to keep using that.”

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Le’Veon Bell Not At Steelers Facility

Le’Veon Bell is not at the Steelers facility today as he continues his holdout, according to Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Bell had been expected to report to the Steelers during the club’s Week 7 bye, and there is still a possibility he could do so. As Kinkhabwala reports, Pittsburgh had meetings today, will practice Tuesday and Wednesday, and then is off until next Monday. Bell could conceivably report later this week, or wait until the Steelers begin preparations for Week 8.

If Bell does report this week and sign his franchise tag, he’d be entitled to his weekly salary of $855K. However, the Steelers could potentially use a roster exemption for Bell, which would allow the club to withhold his pay. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk explained earlier this month, Bell and the Steelers would need to agree to a pay rate if and when Bell is placed on the exempt list.

At last check, Bell hasn’t informed the Steelers of his exact plans. However, when he does show up, the Steelers are expected to use a running back tandem of both Bell and incumbent James Conner, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger recently campaigned for Conner, who is currently second in the NFL in rushing touchdowns and fifth in rushing yards, to retain a role once Bell returns.

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Latest On Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell

Despite reports that running back Le’Veon Bell would report to the Steelers in advance of their Week 7 bye, Pittsburgh has yet to hear from Bell himself and is unsure of his plans, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.

Bell, of course, is holding out to express displeasure with being franchise-tagged for the second consecutive season. When he does report and sign his tender, Bell will earn a prorated portion of a one-year, $14.544MM salary. However, if Bell were to report during the Steelers’ bye week, Pittsburgh could hypothetically deploy a roster exemption, which would enable the club to withhold pay from Bell during that week, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Bell didn’t participate in any offseason activities with the Steelers, so he hasn’t been present with the team since January. Indeed, one Pittsburgh teammate said it would be “weird” if Bell does report this week, specifically because of Bell’s long absence, tweets Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com. Last week, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger campaigned for James Conner, who’s been filling in admirably at running back, to retain a role even once Bell returns.

“I will push for James to get as much run as we can because we’ve seen some great things from him in all phases of football,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s picking up blitzes, he’s catching the ball, he’s running hard and making plays and playing with a passion, so we need to keep using that.”

Bell could still possibly be traded, as the Steelers have reportedly been shopping him in recent weeks. However, the Eagles, who were viewed as a leading contender for Bell, don’t believe running back is a glaring area of need. If Bell doesn’t want to be dealt, he would simply wait to sign his franchise tag until after the October 30 trade deadline, as unsigned players cannot be moved, as Joel Corry of CBSSports.com tweets.

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Roethlisberger Wants Jame Conner To Have Role

Running back Le’Veon Bell is expected to report to the Steelers during their Week 7 bye, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is hoping incumbent back James Conner will retain a role within the club’s offense even after Bell returns. “I will push for James to get as much run as we can because we’ve seen some great things from him in all phases of football,” Roethlisberger told Sean Gentille of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s picking up blitzes, he’s catching the ball, he’s running hard and making plays and playing with a passion, so we need to keep using that.” Conner, a third-round pick in 2017, is currently fifth in the NFL in rushing attempts and seventh in rushing yards, and he’s scored five times on the ground.

Steelers’ Antonio Brown Facing Two Lawsuits

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is facing a pair of lawsuits stemming from an incident in April (via ESPN.com). Brown is being accused of throwing items from the balcony of a South Florida apartment which nearly hit a 2-year-old child who was outside near the pool area. For his part, Brown says the accusations are bogus. 

It has now been made public that two lawsuits containing false claims have been filed against me,” Brown said in a statement. “The facts will soon come out that prove my innocence. My focus will remain on football and I will not let the cases serve as a distraction.”

Meanwhile, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says that the league is monitoring the civil suits. The NFL reserves the right to punish players even when courts find in their favor, so Brown could be subject to a suspension if the league office finds that the accusations have merit. League investigations are usually lengthy and often do not conclude before the legal process wraps up, so Brown is unlikely to face NFL discipline during the 2018 season. If anything, Brown could be looking at some sort of punishment in 2019, depending on how things play out.

This isn’t the first potential distraction that Brown has faced this year. In September, Brown missed a Steelers practice after getting into a social media spat with a former employee. Brown made reference to a trade in that exchange on Twitter, but he has since reaffirmed his desire to stay in Pittsburgh.

Brown had some down games this year (at least, by his standards) and some communication issues with Ben Roethlisberger, but everything seems to be back on track after he had six catches for 101 yards in two scores on Sunday against the Falcons. The Steelers won that game 41-17, bringing them to 2-2-1 on the year.

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Eagles Eyeing Le'Veon Bell

Le’Veon Bell Has Not Informed Steelers Of His Plans, Not Inclined To Accept Trade

11:04am: Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link) says that Bell is not inclined to accept a trade at the moment, and that he remains intent on staying in Pittsburgh and “putting up numbers.” Rapoport adds that the Steelers have not received any firm trade offers at this point, and this report could dampen any trade buzz surrounding Bell, who does not believe a trade would be in his best interests.

08:05am: Although we heard last week that Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell would end his holdout and report to the team during its Week 7 bye, both Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports and Albert Breer of TheMMQB report that Bell has not actually informed his coaches, teammates, or anyone in the Pittsburgh front office of his intentions. As such, the Steelers are continuing to operate as though Bell will not be a part of the team this season.

Both Breer and La Canfora reiterate that the Steelers will continue to try and trade Bell, but the team that represents the most logical fit at this point, the Eagles, still appear to be something of a long shot to pull the trigger on such a deal. Plus, Breer observes that, before Bell can be traded, he would have to sign his franchise tender, which appeared to be a given when Bell announced that he would return to the club in a couple of weeks. But Breer writes that it is not a certainty that Bell will actually sign the tender.

La Canfora notes that the Steelers could place Bell on the exempt list for up to two weeks if and when he does report, and the team seems likely to go that route. The team and Bell’s agent would need to negotiate the terms of that exempt-list stay, which sounds like another difficult conversation between the two parties, but Pittsburgh does not want Bell to get injured before the October 30 trade deadline and blow up his trade market in the process.

Indeed, the Steelers remain hopeful that teams will become more inclined to trade for Bell as the deadline approaches, especially since Pittsburgh is unsure how Bell’s teammates will respond to him and how game-ready Bell will be after missing all of training camp and the preseason and nearly half of the regular season. If Bell does suit up for the Steelers again, he says the team has informed him it intends to use the transition tag on him in the offseason. La Canfora, though, says the team only mentioned the transition tag as a possible tactic and has not even fully discussed the matter internally.

We have discussed the ramifications of a transition tag for Bell over the course of the past week, and as La Canfora details in a separate piece, there could be another fight between the league and the NFLPA if the Steelers were to apply the tag to Bell. Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com believes that, assuming Bell finally gets his long-term deal in free agency this offseason, it would likely be in the neighborhood of a four-year, $48MM pact with incentives or “funny money” to get the total value up to a potential $60MM and hit that $15MM/year mark that Bell is seeking. Fitzgerald also suggests that the contract would need to include around $30MM guaranteed (Twitter links).

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Steelers Won't Rescind Le'Veon Bell's Tender

Two more game weeks remain before Le’Veon Bell‘s declared reporting window opens during the Steelers‘ bye. The team is still listening to trade offers for the 2017 All-Pro, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. The Jets, 49ers and Eagles have surfaced as interested parties. However, a trade still appears to be the only way Bell will leave the Steelers in 2018. Florio adds the team does not intend to rescind his franchise tender, despite the prolonged absence. This obviously makes sense because the Steelers rescinding the tender would not entitle them to compensation for Bell. Pittsburgh isn’t wavering on this long-held stance, though Florio adds the team must now consider if it would prefer a 2020 third-round compensatory pick or a return likely involving a 2019 selection in a trade. If Bell reports during Week 7, the Steelers would have over a week to work out a trade until the Oct. 30 deadline.

Bell’s plummeting 2018 salary — down more than $3MM from the $14.5MM price at the season’s outset — will affect a prospective transition tag in 2019. The Steelers could place the lesser-used tag on Bell next year on a 20 percent raise from his 2018 salary, which won’t be finalized until he signs his tender, and Florio notes that could be used in a transition tag-and-trade scenario.

Extra Points: Bell, Gregory, Raiders, Carr

With just less than four weeks remaining until the trade deadline, Le’Veon Bell-to-the-Eagles has surfaced on the rumor circuit. The Eagles are reportedly giving serious consideration to making a run at the likely rental running back. But SI.com’s Albert Breer isn’t so sure that’s going to happen. The Eagles don’t see running back as a spot to sink major resources into, per Breer. Bell’s approximately $10MM salary would qualify as a major investment, although that’s dropping by the week because of this unusual holdout. Philadelphia has just less than $5MM in cap room, and Breer notes the improving health of its running backs should help them steer clear of these interesting Bell sweepstakes. Corey Clement and Darren Sproles have yet to return to practice, and Jay Ajayi is playing with a back fracture. The Eagles traded a fourth-rounder for Ajayi before the 2017 trade deadline. Bell as of now plans to report to the Steelers during their Week 7 bye.

Here’s the latest from around the league as Week 5’s first game continues:

  • Randy Gregory‘s reinstatement conditions caused him to miss the Cowboys‘ Thursday practice. The defensive end was in Chicago meeting with medical director of the NFL’s substance-abuse program, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports (on Twitter). He most recently attended this type of summit during the preseason. The NFL reinstated Gregory this summer after his extensive substance-abuse-induced hiatus. His status for Week 5 doesn’t appear to be in question. Gregory’s played 64 snaps this season.
  • Jimmy Smith‘s return to action this week doesn’t appear to mean Brandon Carr will be bumped from first-string duties. The 11th-year cornerback has started 164 straight games (and every game he’s played as an NFLer), and Ravens DC Wink Martindale doesn’t plan on stopping that run, Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com notes. Smith is eligible to return after a four-game suspension. Carr, Marlon Humphrey and slot man Tavon Young have worked as Baltimore’s top three corners this season. Smith was thriving prior to his season-ending injury last year, so it should be expected he’ll play a big role soon, even if he doesn’t start immediately. Carr’s 164-game start streak resides as the longest among defensive players by 28 games.
  • While Jon Gruden wanted to take Derwin James in the first round, Vic Tafur of The Athletic writes (subscription required) the Raiders weren’t doing anything except taking a tackle in Round 1. However, if Kolton Miller was gone at No. 15 — where the Raiders dropped to after dealing the No. 10 selection to the Cardinals — Tafur notes they were going to take James or trade down further.
  • The Dolphins were projected to be among the teams examining the crop of potential first-round quarterbacks, but their 3-1 start could change that. Early in the mock process, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report has the Dolphins taking Clemson cornerback Trayvon Mullen, a player whom multiple area scouts have rising into the first round after a strong start to the season. As for where Miller projects the QBs to fall in Round 1, he has the Giants taking Oregon’s Justin Herbert and No. 5, the Patriots grabbing Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham at No. 17 (though, that draft slot seems certain to drop) and the Bengals selecting Missouri’s Drew Lock at 28.

Steelers, Patriots, Saints Wanted Jordan Phillips

Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips is the newest member of the Bills, but a trio of contenders also tried to land him. The Steelers, Patriots, and Saints all put waiver claims in on the former Dolphin, as Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets, but the Bills won out thanks to their higher waiver priority. 

The former second-round pick has struggled with consistency over the last four years, but several teams still believe in his potential. The Patriots’ claim shows that they are less-than-thrilled about their current group of DTs, which consists of Lawrence Guy, Malcom Brown, Danny Shelton, and Adam Butler. Butler likely would have been the odd man out, and Phillips might have had an opportunity to eventually leapfrog Shelton and Brown in the pecking order. Through four weeks, Guy has 19 total tackles and is rated as Pro Football Focus’ No. 4 overall ranked defensive tackle, but the other DTs have something to be desired.

Phillips started most of his games in 2016 and 2017, but was relegated to a reserve role this year in Miami. That didn’t sit well with him – as evidenced by his sideline blowup on Sunday – and that proved to be the last straw for him with the Dolphins. The 1-3 Bills may have a larger role in mind for the 26-year-old.

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