The Pittsburgh Steelers will have their hands full this off-season. After firing offensive coordinator Todd Haley and replacing him with Randy Fichtner as well as hiring new wide receivers coach Darryl Drake the Steelers are starting early on rebuilding their coaching staff heading into the 2018 season. But coaching changes are only the beginning to some of the questions Pittsburgh will need to answer to be ready to make another super bowl run. The biggest question this off-season will be what do the Steelers do about running back Le’Veon Bell? The 3 time pro bowler has publicly stated that if he receives the franchise tag again he will consider sitting out the entire 2018 season or retire completely from the game of football. The Steelers luckily have a couple of ways of making sure they lock up one of the league’s premiere running backs.
One way the Steelers could immediately keep Bell in the black and gold is to sign him to the big time contract he feels he deserves. Last off-season the Steelers reportedly offered Bell a 5 year deal with $30 million over the first two years and $42 million over the first three years, which averaged out to about $12 million a year. That contract would have made Bell the highest paid back in the league, but he instead decided to play under the team’s franchise tag that was worth $12.1 million. Bell obviously believes he is worth more than $12 million a year, so it would take a considerable amount of money for the Steelers to retain Bell on a long-term deal.
The Steelers could also tag Bell for another year if they choose to. This year the tag would be worth somewhere north of $14 million, a hefty price for a running back to turn down. Even after Bell stated he would consider retiring or sitting under the tag $14 million is not a number to scoff at. To make things more interesting the Steelers could tag Bell under the non-exclusive franchise tag. This would let other teams make an offer for Bell, leaving the Steelers with two options: either match the offer another team makes to retain Bell, or let him sign with a new team and receive two first round draft picks for the next season.
One of the last options Pittsburgh could exhaust would be to open up to trade talks for Bell. A team would have to offer up quite a bit to land the pro bowl running back, but if the right offer would be presented to them the Steelers may let Bell go to another team to put the pressure on them in offering Bell the high price tag he believes he deserves.
If I were a betting man I would have my money on the Steelers tagging Bell for yet another year. $14 million is a pretty high price point for a running back in today’s NFL, but it is something I see Pittsburgh doing in order to hold on to Bell and keep negotiations open for a long-term contract to be worked out for one more year. Bell is undoubtedly one of the best running backs in the NFL. He has shown so by rushing for more than 1,000 yards in the past two seasons as well as adding more than 600 receiving yards as well. There isn’t much more for Bell to prove to Pittsburgh he deserves to be paid, but with the Steelers being handcuffed by the salary cap their options are stretched thin regarding a long-term deal for Bell. Tagging Bell one more year will give Pittsburgh enough time to negotiate a big time deal to give Bell the big pay day he wants and deserves.