The Pittsburgh Steelers are Super Bowl contenders, but their start to the 2018 NFL season has been mired with a giant distraction.

That distraction is the absence of superstar running back Le’Veon Bell, who has not reported to practice this week and has yet to sign his franchise tender.

Bell and the Steelers weren’t able to come to an agreement on a long-term contract extension by the deadline before the preseason, and the situation has escalated to the point where there’s a legitimate chance he doesn’t even play in Week 1.

According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Bell “is not expected to play Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, barring an unforeseen development, according to a source, and agent Adisa Bakari hinted that Bell might be willing to wait it out longer.”

The first half of the Steelers’ schedule is much easier than the second half, so they might be able to win games without Bell early on. But make no mistake, Pittsburgh needs him to dethrone the New England Patriots and get back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2010.

Some of Bell’s teammates are fed up, too, and they haven’t been shy about voicing their displeasure.

The longer Bell remains away from the team, the worse this distraction will get, and that’s bad news for one of the league’s most talented rosters.

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