Throwing shade has never been so casual.
“We haven’t spent a lot of time focused on it because it’s not within our control. Those decisions are Le’Veon’s. We need volunteers not hostages,” Tomlin told ESPN’s Dianna Russini on Sunday.
Bell has given the team zero indication of when he’ll return, according to NFL Media. Because of the contract dispute, the Steelers have removed Bell from their roster while they await his return. In the meantime, running back James Conner has been as good — or at least as productive — during 2018 as Bell was during 2017.
Tomlin addressed the emergence of Conner, who has been a revelation in his second season in the NFL.
“Taking nothing against James, the running of the football is an 11-man job,” Tomlin said. “We’ve got a great belief in our offensive line. They’re doing a great job opening holes for him. But to James’ credit, he’s running, catching, blocking, doing all the things we ask our future runner to do.”
If Bell doesn’t return before Nov. 13, then he will not be able to play at all during 2018, and would lose an accrued season. Essentially, that would mean the Steelers could again place the franchise tag on Bell. If he returns, Bell would accrue a season, which gets him closer to free agency, but the Steelers could then place a transition tag on the running back. A return to Pittsburgh would be a positive step. But the fiscal battle may only be beginning.