Le’Veon Bell, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ holdout running back, said Monday he plans to play football this season, expecting to report during the team’s bye in Week 7.
Le’Veon Bell has been a holdout since refusing to report to training camp in July, but reports out of Pittsburgh on Monday say the All-Pro running back plans to come back to the Steelers during the team’s Week 7 bye.
That may not be soon enough to help the Steelers salvage their season. Pittsburgh fell to 1-2-1 with a 26-14 loss at home Sunday night to the Baltimore Ravens, tied with the Cleveland Browns for last place in the AFC North.
Without Bell, the Steelers played the Browns to a 21-21 tie on the road in their opener, followed that up with a 42-37 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in their home opener and finally got a 30-27 win at Tampa Bay in Week 3.
The running game has been inconsistent at best. Second-year running back James Connor has stepped in as the starter and nearly surpassed his rookie season total of 144 yards in the opener, rushing for 135 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries.
Since then, however, Connor has totaled 32 carries and 97 yards with one score over the last three weeks.
Connor also has 18 receptions for 164 yards.
Against the Ravens, Connor was held to 19 yards on nine attempts and caught three passes for 25 yards.
Bell told ESPN.com he’s ready to play today, but after being hit with a second straight franchise tag, it’s a matter of principle.
“It sucks having to sit out football. I want to play. I want to win games and the playoffs. But I’ve gotta take this stand. Knowing my worth and knowing I can tear a ligament or get surgery at any time, I knew I couldn’t play 16 games with 400 or more touches.”
Pittsburgh is still entertaining trade offers for Bell. Bell was reportedly told he would be transition tagged next offseason, which would allow the two-time All-Pro to talk to other teams while Pittsburgh retained his rights.
Bell received a $70 million offer from the Steelers this summer that included $17 million guaranteed. That came after running backs Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams and David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals signed new deals with at least double the guaranteed cash.
Bell was selected for his third Pro Bowl and got his second All-Pro nod in 2017 after leading the NFL with 321 carries and totaling 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns.
More importantly, Bell was targeted 106 times in the passing game and had 85 catches for 655 yards and two more scores.
His 406 touches led the NFL and were the most in the league since DeMarco Murray logged 449 touches for the Dallas Cowboys in 2014.
In five seasons, Bell — a second-round pick out of Michigan State in 2013 — has 5,336 rushing yards and 312 catches for 2,660 yards, scoring 35 touchdowns on the ground and seven as a receiver.
He was ranked No. 5 in the NFL Network’s annual ranking of the league’s top 100 players this offseason, up four places from No. 9 in 2017.