Bell was absent when practice began at 10:45 a.m. Monday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. He didn’t show up for training camp and has not signed his $14.54 million franchise-tag tender.
In 2017, he didn’t take part in offseason activities or training camp, his first year on the franchise tag. He didn’t show up for practice until the Monday before the first game of the season.
The Steelers open the 2018 season Sunday.
“We are disappointed Le’Veon Bell has not signed his franchise tender and rejoined his teammates,” general manager Kevin Colbert said in a statement issued Monday morning. “Coach (Mike) Tomlin and the coaching staff will continue to focus on preparing the players on our roster for our regular season opener on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.”
Last week, multiple reports said Bell would report soon and that the Steelers assumed he’d be at the first practice. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Bell had told teammates of his plans to report.
Bell appeared to disagree with the Post-Gazette report, tweeting later Tuesday, “don’t believe the fake news, I never said anything to no one…”
Sunday night, he took to social media again, posting a series of videos on Snapchat that appeared to show him miles away from Pittsburgh. In the videos, he and his daughter are spending time together in a beachfront hotel.
In Bell’s absence, second-year back James Conner has emerged as a solid option. In the preseason, Conner had 19 carries for 100 yards (5.3-yard average) as the lead running back. The former college star at Pittsburgh caught seven passes for 61 yards.
Pro Football Focus tweeted this Monday morning: “The highest graded RB in the NFL this preseason is #Steelers RB James Conner.
If Bell’s holdout continues into the regular season, Conner has shown himself to be capable of filling in with his work this offseason.”
–Field Level Media