Steelers not planning to blink in Bell holdout

LeVeon Bell without his helmet

Steelers teammates turn on Le'Veon Bell: 'He f--ked us'

Wednesday started with the hope that Le'Veon Bell would sign his franchise tag and report to the team, clearing him to play in Week 1 and beyond.

"What do you do?" One of those teammates is veteran offensive lineman Ramon Foster, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette.

"I just felt confident that he was gonna come", center Maurkice Pouncey said Wednesday.

Foster also added: "He's making seven times what I make, twice as much as Al (Villanueva) is making, and we're the guys who do it for him".

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Bell has not stepped foot in the Steelers' facilities in nearly eight months.

A standout football player in high school, Bell later played college football at Michigan State University from 2010 to 2012 and opted to enter the 2013 NFL Draft after his junior season, ultimately being selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round. But if Bell signs his current tag at any time prior to November 13, the Steelers would have to either tag him a third time at a hefty price tag next offseason or let him hit free agency.

Bell was also selected to three Pro Bowls in 2015, 2017 and 2018, attesting his status as one of the best running backs in the league. Most players accept that this is their only way to get paid to play football in the NFL.

"Why play hide and seek?" he said. Why let your agent say this?

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Pittsburgh's confidence in Conner is not just lip service for the "next man up". Bell and his camp appear committed to sitting out some portion of the 2018 season with a focus toward free agency in 2019.

Bell's agent, Adisa Bakari, suggested in an appearance during ESPN's "NFL Live" on Wednesday that Bell's holdout could continue past this week, saying that his client "is going to do the things necessary to protect his value long-term". But when he still didn't show up, their patience ran out. We're not anxious, they said. If Bell doesn't sign his franchise tender until 10 weeks into the season-a move that would guarantee him the crucial six-game accrual that will allow him to finally be a free agent next offseason-that will challenge the entire organization, and especially the head coach with whom the buck stops.

Bell's chair remained tucked neatly into his locker on Wednesday, meaning he will nearly certainly not be available when the Steelers open the season in Cleveland this weekend. He will lose about $850,000 for each game he misses.

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