Cook: This Is Bell's Final Season In Pittsburgh

The Steelers were unable to reach a long-term deal with Le'Veon Bell before the franchise-tag deadline Monday

July 17, 2018 - 8:22 am

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The Steelers were unable to reach a long-term deal with Le’Veon Bell before Monday’s franchise-tag deadline, all but ensuring that 2018 will be Bell’s final season in Pittsburgh.

“This is going to be his last year,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist and The Fan afternoon co-host Ron Cook said on Ferrall on the Bench. “I want him to be here as long as Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown are. The line, except for Ramon Foster, is signed for at least two more years. I think he can help them compete for a Super Bowl.” 

Bell has 1,200+ rushing yards, 600+ receiving yards, and 9+ touchdowns in each of the last two seasons.

“I think he’s the best back in the league,” Cook said, “and part of me admires his conviction and his ability to go for what he thinks he is worth. But this is going to be it here. They’re not going to do another deal with him after this year. They can franchise him again, but it would be over $20 million a year. They’re not going to do that. I fully expect he’ll hold out, miss camp, show up the week before the first game and then hopefully play his behind off and help them win. I’m glad he’s here. I’m glad they franchised him for another year. I’m prepared for him to move on after this year. But he’s a really fine player. He’s respected by his teammates. They don’t look at him as a problem by any stretch.”
If Bell stays healthy, he will likely have many suitors next offseason. He has 7,996 total yards through 62 regular-season games – the most of any player since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

“I think he’s going to go somewhere and get the money he wants,” Cook said. “Let’s assume he’s healthy this year and productive. If he is, I think he breaks the bank next year. . . . Now you know he’s not going to be back next year so you can prepare with the draft and free agency. They’re certainly going to have a lot of money. I don’t think they have another back in their backfield right now that can be an every-down player for them.”

Bell reportedly turned down an offer worth $70 million over five seasons, as he wanted more than the reported $33 million in guarantees. 

“I think he wanted more guaranteed money, and the Steelers generally have not guaranteed more than the first year,” Cook said. “They'll guarantee that, but they don’t guarantee more. Now they were willing to load it up on the front – I was told $30 million over two years – but the second year isn’t guaranteed. I think he wanted that guaranteed. He said he wants to set the market for a hybrid player like him who feels like he’s more than just a running back; he’s also a receiver. He knows Antonio Brown is making $17 million a year here, and I think he wants that much. I don’t think he would have demanded that, but I think he wanted more guaranteed. You know the Steelers: They don’t give guarantees, and they don’t pay you more than what they think you’re worth.”

The Steelers open the season at Cleveland on Sept. 9. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET.