GM 'confident' Steelers can sign Le'Veon Bell long-term, won't rule out franchise tag

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is confident Pittsburgh can lock up star running back Le’Veon Bell long-term.

“I think with both sides wanting to get something done, I think that certainly aids your ability to get that done,” Colbert said Thursday, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Bell, who turns 26 Sunday, has amassed more than 1,800 total yards rushing and receiving in three of the last four years. He finished top-five in rushing in 2014, 2016 and 2017, and he has 42 touchdowns in 62 career games. Yet he has not been signed to a long-term deal and made less than $1 million per year until 2017 when the Steelers put the franchise tag on him,  paying him $12.1 million.

He’ll get a long-term deal at some point and it’s just a matter of which team will give it to him. The Steelers want to be that team.

“We do know that Le’Veon has been a great player for us,” Colbert told the Post-Gazette. “We think he can still be a great player from this point forward, and we’d love to have him be a Steeler for the rest of his career.”

The problem for the Steelers is they have just $4 million in salary cap room. They would have to release or trade players to make room for Bell, which is a big reason they haven’t locked him up yet.

He has also had injury problems and was suspended three games for missing a drug test in 2016. But after a season in which Bell rushed for 1,291 yards and caught 85 passes for 655 yards, there is no doubt Pittsburgh has had its doubts alleviated.

The salary cap issue is another story and if they can’t figure that out, the Steelers may have to franchise tag him again, which may not go well because Bell has already said he may retire if that happens.

Despite that threat, Colbert would not rule out the possibility.

“Everybody knows it’s an option,” Colbert said. “We’ll never say we wouldn’t use it.”