Le’Veon Bell knows what he wants, and he’ll use any of his options to get it.
The Pittsburgh Steelers running back addressed his ongoing contract stalemate with the team Monday night, telling ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler he remains in negotiations over a long-term deal but doesn’t intend to play another season without one.
The Steelers informed Bell on Monday they’ll use the franchise tag on him for the second consecutive season. In response, Bell set his $14.5 million tag as the baseline for the annual salary he wants in a new contract, but the negotiating tactic hasn’t brought the parties any closer to an agreement.
“We’re not coming to a number we both agree on — they are too low, or I guess they feel I’m too high,” Bell said. “I’m playing for strictly my value to the team. That’s what I’m asking. I don’t think I should settle for anything less than what I’m valued at.”
Bell said the Steelers are basing their offer to him on what the Atlanta Falcons pay Devonta Freeman, whose $8.25 million-per-year contract makes him the highest-paid running back in the NFL. However, Bell is more productive than Freeman and wants his contract to reflect his value to the Steelers over the first six years of his career, as opposed to his current standing in the running back market.
“They are using it as me being compared to another running back or my status or what Devonta Freeman has,” Bell said. “I can’t control what he’s done on the field. I only can control what I think I’m worth and what I’ve done on the field. That’s where the problem lies. ‘Freeman’s making this, we can’t give you this.’ … To me, that’s not fair. I didn’t sign Devonta’s deal. That’s the position I’m in. I want to make my own decision.”
Bell, 26, threatened to sit out training camp again, hold out until Week 10 or even retire if he and the Steelers don’t agree to a new contract before the start of next season.
“I just have to decide if I’m going to play when the time comes,” Bell said.
Bell told his Twitter followers Monday night he’d like to finish his career in Pittsburgh. Fans should hope the NFL’s most productive running back in recent years already hasn’t played his last game.