Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
Le’Veon Bell‘s holdout will officially impact the regular season as the Pittsburgh Steelers star is not expected to be available for the team’s Week 1 game against the Cleveland Browns, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com.
There is also reportedly a possibility he could miss more games.
“He’s going to do the things necessary to protect his value long-term,” his agent, Adisa Bakari, said on NFL Live.
The running back has been holding out since training camp after the Steelers placed a franchise tag on him for the second year in a row. He was scheduled to make $14.5 million this year but had refused to sign his franchise tender as he hoped to earn a long-term deal.
While the 26-year-old also held out last season, he returned to team following the end of the preseason, something he didn’t do immediately in 2018.
Now it appears he won’t be back for regular-season games, forcing the Steelers to play without one of the NFL’s top offensive players.
Of course, the Steelers coaching staff and players have been preparing for this.
The play of second-year running back James Conner has also eased concerns as he takes over the starting job.
“If we start off with James, I think we’ll be fine either way,” guard Ramon Foster said, per Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s a guy who has worked his butt off. He’s made strides. He’s made us confident in him. He gets the start, we roll with him. No disrespect to [Bell], but this is a moving train.”
While Conner totaled 144 rushing yards on 32 carries last season, he could be in for a breakout year if Bell continues to sit.
There is no denying Bell is a difference-maker. Even after holding out last season, he led the NFL with 406 touches and finished with 1,946 yards from scrimmage and 11 total touchdowns. It was the third time he topped 1,800 yards from scrimmage in a season and his second time earning a first-team All-Pro selection.
However, the Steelers will be ready to move on without him as Bell also prepares to lose $853,000 for every week he misses.