Steelers franchise tag Le’Veon Bell for second straight year

NFL Free Agency, NFL News, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers franchise tagged Le’Veon Bell for the second straight year. Now the real drama begins.

The Pittsburgh Steelers officially slapped the franchise tag on running back Le’Veon Bell before Tuesday’s deadline. Bell will make $14.5 million on the one-year deal. This also triggers the July 16 deadline for franchised players to reach a long-term deal, but that looks like a long shot at this point.

For the second year in a row, Bell and the Steelers couldn’t hammer out an extension despite his elite production. He skipped training camp last year and will probably do the same again this summer. Bell even threatened to retire at one point, but that’s an obvious negotiating ploy.

Either way, negotiations haven’t gone smoothly, and it’s hard to imagine the two sides striking a deal any time soon.

Bell is coming off another excellent season, putting up 1,946 yards from scrimmage and scoring 11 total touchdowns. He also stayed healthy after years of nagging injuries, only missing the Week 17 finale for rest.

There are reasons to be concerned about Bell’s long-term outlook. Despite being only 26 years old, he’s taken on a massive workload with a combined 742 touches (carries and receptions) the past two years.

There’s also the injury history to be worried about. That’s why the Steelers have been cautious about committing big money to Bell.

Those are legitimate concerns, but they’re outweighed by Bell’s sheer talent. He’s one of the best, most complete running backs in football, and his versatility is a crucial part of the  Steelers’ offense. They couldn’t afford to lose him to free agency, so the franchise tag ensures they have their workhorse for at least one more year.

Even though Bell is off the market, there are plenty of solid free agent running backs available. Isaiah Crowell, Carlos Hyde, and Jerick McKinnon are among the top backs in this year’s projected free-agent crop.

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