Star running back Le’Veon Bell is once again absent from the Pittsburgh Steelers after stating he would return from their Week 7 bye.
Although Le’Veon Bell provided the expectation that he would return to the Steelers following their Week 7 bye, NFL.com’s Ian Rapaport reports that Bell has not returned to the team.
Bell did not report to training camp this summer and is holding out due to concerns over his workload with free agency pending in March. While Bell would only be available for half the season, it will be tough for Pittsurgh to get a ton in the trade market, perhaps making it more logical to hold onto him and hope he returns ready to play at some point.
But with Bell not reporting as of Monday, Oct. 22, Rapaport states that trading Bell isn’t completely off the team’s radar.
The Steelers are not planning to trade Bell, but have not completely dismissed the idea either, based on how aggressively another team could pursue Bell.
To date, the trade interest in Bell has been limited due to the circumstances that surround his situation, according to sources. Bell told ESPN that he planned on playing this season, and a source told ESPN earlier this month that the star running back was expected to report during the Week 7-8 time frame.
The Steelers have been a mixed bag in Bell’s absence, going 3-2-1 as they approach the halfway point of the season. But the team’s running game hasn’t been the issue, with James Conner gaining 710 yards from scrimmage while scoring seven touchdowns in total. Conner is also averaging 5.5 yards per touch, which is higher than Bell’s 4.8 yards per touch last season.
With an AFC North showdown against the Cleveland Browns approaching this Sunday, the Steelers will want clarity from Bell on his playing status soon. Next week (Oct. 30) is the NFL’s trade deadline, and whether Bell stays or is traded, the Steelers may be more than happy to close out this situation.