Pittsburgh Steelers can place transition tag on RB Le'Veon Bell

While Mike Tomlin said he was pushing Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell out of his mind, the coach casually ripped Bell, whose holdout has continued through Week 9 of the 2018 season.

"We haven't spent a lot of time focused on it because it's not within our control".

"We haven't spent a lot of time focused on it because it's not in our control", Tomlin said of Bell's holdout, after praising the work of fill-in RB James Conner, who ranks second in the National Football League with 599 rushing yards and third with nine TDs. "We need volunteers, not hostages, so we're focused on the guys that are here, that are working, and James is part of that mix".

Bell must report by the Tuesday of Week 11, or November 13, in order to play this season. And reports Sunday indicate that the Steelers can now use the transition tag on Bell, giving themselves the chance to match any offer the 26-year-old back were to receive on the open market while committing $9-10 million, far less than they were willing to pay on this year's one-year tender, in 2019.

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Conner, a third-round pick past year who saw limited time backing up Bell, has three straight 100-yard rushing games and four on the season; he is averaging 4.7 yards per carry on 127 chances, with nine rushing touchdowns. Perhaps they were simply anxious that he would not report to them if they did trade for him. "But to James' credit, he's running, catching, blocking, doing all the things we ask our future runner to do".

Bell, who has until November 13, or the beginning of Week 11, to show up, play and gain an accrued season, might have another battle still to come with the Steelers. If he does, Pittsburgh is not likely to use its franchise tag on Bell again this offseason, since a third consecutive franchise tag would be too cost prohibitive. A return to Pittsburgh would be a positive step.

Bell is headed for free agency this coming offseason and he is not expected to consider returning to the Steelers. But the fiscal battle may only be beginning.

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